The Library’s “SSSH Free Zone”…Children’s Story Time
By Jimmie Epling
Darlington County Library System
A gentleman from Wappingers Falls, N.Y. remarked after reading a story about children’s story times in New York City libraries (New York Times, Nov. 1, 2015), “As a person who has utilized my local library for more than fifty years (to take out books, not videos), I think it’s wonderful, to hear those little voices coming from behind the story-room door. They’re hearing stories and singing and dancing and pounding drums, and yes, they’re raucous, but you won’t hear me saying ‘sssh!”” Part of instilling a love of reading into children is bringing stories alive with fun readings, storytelling, songs, dances, and other activities. This is why the children’s story times at all four of the Darlington County Library System’s four locations are a “SSSSH Free Zone!”
Whether it is Ms. Liz at Darlington, Ms. Lori at Hartsville, Ms. Michelle at Lamar, or Ms. Diane at Society Hill presenting, story time is a weekly celebration of reading for young children and their parents. All the studies point to the need to start early in a child’s life to instill a love of reading. This is important because we know that a child who reads will succeed in life. As any parent will tell you, being a parent is a tough job. Taking the time to read to your child, and setting an example for your child by being seen reading are both important. Story time at the Library can help you get started by giving you both a chance to interact with other parents and children, but also with someone who can help you find the right books for you and your child to read together: our children’s librarians. Not only will your child get to listen to stories and learn new things, it will be a fun opportunity to learn some basic socialization skills, and for you to make new friends and share experiences as a parent.
So what can you expect from a Library story time? To start, these weekly program are free to attend, and more importantly, they are not just entertainment. Story time at the Library is a multifaceted 45-minute program for toddlers and preschoolers that take place in a special area of the children’s room of each library. The little ones gather around the children’s librarian and parents are welcome to listen and to sit with their child. Our children’s librarian begins by presenting a book, possibly even two, through a combination of reading and storytelling. As part of the program, there is rhyming chanting, singing, and dancing (well, maybe more like wiggling) to songs like the “Tooty Ta” (check it out on our website www.darlington-lib.org under “For Children”). These activities help to increase a child’s vocabulary and general knowledge. The story time often wraps up with a special craft that is designed to develop fine motor skills by focusing on the process used to make the craft rather than the end product. Our story times are always centered on a timely theme to tie the story time together in a way helps increase a child’s attention span, and create a program that is enjoyable to both child and parent!
I’ll bet you didn’t realize what a vital program story time is to many in our community. For many of our children and their parents, the Library’s story time has become a highlight of the week. We see those children come in and make a straight line for the children’s room with smiles on their faces, often pulling their parent along. Both child and parent visit the Library together to share a love of stories, books, and reading. The recent article mentioned above describes how many New York City parents have discovered the Library’s story time program causing a surge in story time participation. Story time has become so popular that some of the libraries have to turn away children and parents due to lack of space. Thankfully, none of our libraries are at that point yet, but this past summer Hartsville Branch did add a second story time with the same program to accommodate the families that wanted to come and that wanted a small group experience. As we plan ahead for 2016, you can expect additional story times when the demand develops. We will transition once again to duplicate programming so that all children that want to attend are able to.
One way we get the word out about the Library’s story times and other programs is through our children’s librarians’ community outreach. All of our children’s librarians go out to the many daycares, preschool programs, and Head Start classrooms in our community. They deliver bins of books to be used in each classroom and often do a story presentation and sing along with the children in each class when time permits. While visiting, the children’s librarians encourage the children to visit their local Branch for even more books.
Many classes plan visits to their local Library branch with their students during the course of the school year and learn about story times. For at least a week afterward, we hear the parents say “They couldn’t wait to come back. We had to come as soon as I got off work.” For some children a tour of the Library, followed by a story and craft, is an eye opener. They learn about the wonderful things to be found inside the Library and they can’t wait to come back with their family and show off what they discovered. Of course, part of their child’s plan is to take home some of the treasure they found in the Library.
Story times at the Library are free educational and entertaining programs for toddlers and preschoolers to help parents raise a reader! Yes, the programs are very often “raucous” events. When you are trying to get children excited about something, you and they can’t be quiet about it! We work to get children excited about reading at the Library because their future success depends on it. That is why story times at the Darlington County Library System are held in a “SSSH Free Zone.” We wouldn’t have it any other way!