Library story times are getting well-deserved media attention for helping young children build early literacy skills and develop social skills.
A recent New York Times article on story time, says:
“Forty strollers were double- and triple-parked on the main floor of the Fort Washington Library in Upper Manhattan. As another one came through the door, Velda Asbury waved toward a spot beside a book stack.
“Officially, Ms. Asbury is a library clerk, checking books in and out. But every Wednesday she doubles as a parking attendant during one of the New York Public Library’s most popular programs: story time.”
The Times explains that story time, like a hot Broadway show, is drawing huge crowds because “more than ever, educators are emphasizing the importance of early literacy in preparing children for school and for developing critical thinking skills. The demand crosses economic lines, with parents at all income levels vying to get in.”
“Citywide, story time attendance rose to 510,367 people in fiscal year 2015, up nearly 28 percent from 399,751 in fiscal 2013.”
The Times also points to story time’s national popularity, explaining, “Libraries around the country have expanded story time and other children’s programs in recent years, attracting a new generation of patrons in an age when online offerings sometimes make trips to the book stacks unnecessary. Sari Feldman, president of the American Library Association, said such early-literacy efforts are part of a larger transformation libraries are undergoing to become active learning centers for their communities by offering services like classes in English as a second language, computer skills and career counseling.”
The Minneapolis Star Tribune told a similar story last month.
“In these tech-savvy times, it’s easy to imagine that toddlers and preschoolers live in a world that no longer includes activities like visiting the library or having books read aloud to them.
“That’s not the story, however, at Washington County Libraries.
“Instead, the popularity of story times — a chance for parents and young children to listen to a librarian read books aloud — has grown exponentially at the county’s branch libraries.”
And in some Minnesota libraries, story time serves a special population of children. This Star Tribune article notes:
“A growing number of libraries are opening earlier and holding special story times to cater to some little Minnesotans who like to read in their own way.
“Carver County and several other Minnesota libraries are piloting Sensitive Storytimes to accommodate children on the autism spectrum or with sensory processing disorders.
“The Center for Engaging Autism has trained librarians across Minnesota to better serve children on the spectrum in their communities.”
The article adds:
“For young readers who need more quiet at sensitive story time, librarians are encouraged to put up a pop-tent or lay a blanket over a table for children to crawl inside and still enjoy story time.”
The Center for Engaging Autism “received a grant from the Minnesota Department of Education to work on literacy initiatives for parents with children of autism in 2013. The center applied the grant to train more than 50 librarians about sensitive story time, including Metropolitan Library Service Agency and the Hennepin County Library librarians.”
Parents are particular fans of this approach. “Jen Reiter, 45, of Maple Grove, dreamed about sharing her love of the library with her 8-year-old daughter, Olivia. But Olivia often can’t keep still, Reiter said, and library and book stores can be unwelcoming. At the sensitive story times, she said, Olivia can connect with other children on the autism spectrum, and spin and jump around all she wants.”
In Texas, librarians are also offering story time to children who are prone to sensory overload, according to the Dallas Morning News.
In Missouri, Bonnie Coleman, a librarian at the Farmington Public Library, told the Farmington Press, “The kids learn how to listen, to share and how to get a long while they are here.” She adds: “For the homeschooled kids, storytime can be counted for their interaction time as well.”
And here in Boston, enter the words “story time” in the search box of the Boston Public Library’s calendar webpage, and you come up with toddler and preschool story times as well as films for preschoolers that are all held in the main library and in the neighborhood branches.
Story time is an old favorite with brand new appeal. Even in a world of video games, television, and e-readers, it’s striking to see how important libraries and books are for helping toddlers and preschoolers develop social and emotional skills as well as a love of reading.