Wednesday, October 17, 2007

The Multiple Gifts of Story Time


One of the many good things about working at NPL is the pleasure of seeing parents and children heading in to story time each Wednesday and Friday. It's Tot City, and it's beautiful!

Story time is no mere frill. As I read an surge (you should pardon the expression) of articles on the struggles of schools trying to meet the requirements of No Child Left Behind, I find myself thinking about the many institutions within the community that contribute to the education of children. As the African elders said, and Hillary Clinton echoed, it takes a village.

Story times provide toddlers with socialization, the development of an attention span, and exposure to a wide range of books, not to mention familiarity with the friendly face
of the children's librarian. In addition, they give mothers and dads a chance to gather together, a break from the isolation of the home. With more parents working, the demand for story time doesn't go down; it goes up, since work schedules tend to vary, necessitating the involvement of both parents. We have some dedicated dads who bring their children to story time.

I live in a town south of Norwich which, a few years ago, allowed its citizens to be bamboozled by a misinformation campaign that ultimately meant passing on the establishment of a strong central library in favor of the preservation of the small village libraries. When the dust settled, the
library for the largest of these villages had been shut down. So much for the preservation of small village libraries.

In my town are many children who find themselves hard pressed to keep up with their peers in wealthier towns. It's short-sighted to think that the job of developing literacy is that of the schools alone. Parents have a vital stake, as do community institutions, the chief of which is the public library.

The parents who make the most of our library are rich indeed, not necessarily in personal finances, but in opportunities for their children. Some of them come in and check out bags full of books at a time, knowing that their children will love some of them, reject others. They are developing interest in and enthusiasm for reading that will last their kids a lifetime.

It's ironic that struggling schools can seldom afford the services of a good public library. They're the ones who need them most.