By Mallory Hoffman
For 21st Century Media
My daughter is 23 months old and I was shocked one day a few months ago when she pointed to the “A” on an old stool we have that says “M-A-L-L-O-R-Y” (my name) and proudly said “A!” She watches Sesame Street like it’s her job and she gets read to a lot – but I was still surprised. Even as a librarian. I’m not sure why. I see kids here on a daily basis, getting read to, checking out stacks of books (and I really do mean STACKS of books), and attending story times. I shouldn’t be surprised – they are here to do just that. Learn.
My daughter might not be able to attend the story times due to scheduling conflicts, but she comes to the library, and Mommy definitely brings the library home to her. Some people have never understood our importance – or the importance of libraries in general. We aren’t just here for entertainment. Sure we check out lots of DVDs and music CDs – but we’ve been here for almost 14 years, teaching toddlers and preschoolers the importance of reading and books, the love of learning, and early literacy. Our preschool classes just finished on May 2nd for the Spring session – and the kids all got “Alphabet Certified” as they had been working through their letters since the Fall. Laura Kauffman, our children’s librarian, does more than an awesome job with these kids. She not only plans and executes these weekly story times, but she also provides homework for each child to take home and practice with (which they love!).
Our library truly provides as many children’s programs as we can afford to offer at no charge to our patrons. Coming up during the week of May 14th through 18th we have a program we like to call “Star Reader” where kids come in and they read to us. I remember the first time I sat with a little girl a few years ago who was doing Star Reader for the first time – she was three – and read me her favorite board book. I got teary-eyed because I knew she had been coming to the library since she was a baby, and she was reading to me, all by herself! Whether anyone wants to believe that early literacy is important or not doesn’t matter – she was so proud of herself for reading that book – and so was I.
Kimberly Schafer, a patron and mom of two who brings her youngest to preschool story time each week, emailed us and said “Thanks so much for all the great programs you provide! Owen and Kayla can’t wait to be star readers next week!” Emails like this are what keep us motivated to continue quality, core programming for our community and surrounding areas.
We don’t just do programming for little ones, either. We have a kids book club for kids ages 8-12; our Reading Olympics Team (partnered with Reiffton School) just won 8th place out of 46 teams in Berks County thanks to their strong commitment to reading, studying, and teamwork; we have a teen book club for ages 13-18; and an evening reader’s book club for adults. These programs are all free to the public. We also do at least one family literacy event per year. This year’s event was Mo Willems’ Elephant and Piggie Night back in February, where we not only had different literacy stations for the kids to work on, but the costume characters made guest appearances as well.
To not miss out on great events like these in the future, always check our website for events at www.berks.lib.pa.us/sxt .
This summer, however, is going to be different for many library patrons who are used to the types of summer programs we offer. There will be no consistent County-wide Summer Reading Program. Each Berks County Library has been given the option to create and run their own individualized program within the Nationwide theme. Our library will continue to have reading tickets available as we always have – but we will not have our “store” or our “book bucks”. We will have our tokens and prize machine, and we will draw one weekly winner from our library’s batch of tickets. There will be no County-wide grand prize of a laptop. All the summer programs will be severely scaled down due to budget cuts. We hate that it has to be this way – but we can’t give away everything for free, and we are doing our best to encourage the love of reading without those prizes, but it is hard! This year, Summer Reading will begin on June 11th.
Our library always aims to entertain, but we just can’t keep the literacy out of it. So if you come to the library for one of our programs this summer or fall, expect to learn something. And hopefully, we’ll all be happier because of it.
*To be a Star Reader – stop by the library to sign up or call 610-406-9431.
Mallory Hoffman is the library director at Exeter Community Library.