National Library Week: Children’s Classes are Bookin’ Around the Community

Colorful poster that reads "Bookin' Around the Community: Children's Classes" and "There's More to the Story," with the More and Story letters made up of items you can borrow or use at a library.

by Sylvia H.

When you hear the word “library,” what do you picture? Many envision a building with books, computers, and spaces for community gathering. They are often pleasantly surprised to learn that libraries offer much, much more. 

In celebration of this year’s National Library Week theme, “There’s More to the Story,” I am excited to share some of the ways the children’s staff of the Miller Branch is serving our community beyond our walls.

Preschool visits 

You may be familiar with HCLS’ top-notch early learning classes, but did you know that we also take these classes “on-the-road?” Our children’s staff make visits to local preschool and prekindergarten programs (both public and private) within our community, collaborating with teaching staff to plan theme-related classes that incorporate engaging stories, finger plays, and songs. It’s always exciting to see our youngest customers outside the branch as students in their classrooms, some of whom we taught previously in our library classes. A perfect example of this is when a staff member reconnected with a young customer who came to Maryland with his mother as refugees from Ukraine last summer. How rewarding it was to see him learning in school, knowing that the library and his preschool have supported his family during their transition. 

Bridges 

This spring our children’s staff have provided enrichment activities at the Bridges after-school programs at Cradlerock Elementary and Stevens Forest Elementary Bridges, as part of our A+ Partnership with Howard County Public School System. From making salt dough, to exploring snap circuit boards and creating “Wiggle [ro]Bots,” students were able to engage in a variety of exciting and hands-on STEAM activities. They were also able to get a preview of some of the materials we have available for use in our children’s classes at the library! This has been an awesome way for students and school staff to connect with the library where they are and become acquainted (or reacquainted) with ways HCLS can support them. 

After-school events 

The library has long supported school-wide family events, such as math and reading nights, bedtime stories, and more. What a great way to engage with families and school staff to share library resources, classes, and events! Often, our prize wheel is the highlight of these visits; children love the opportunity to spin the wheel and share something they enjoy at the library and/or learn about what their library card can do for them. Did you know HCPSS students are automatically given an account with the library as part of our A+ Partnership? This account works as a traditional library account would, allowing students to use hcpss.me to access books, electronic resources, and other materials. 

Some upcoming events Miller children’s instructors are preparing for include but are not limited to: Manor Woods Elementary’s Multicultural Night, Waterloo’s Carnival, and Hollifield Station’s Blacktop Party. We cannot wait to join in on the fun! 

Hatchlings 

HCLS continues its work with Mother Goose on the Loose: Hatchlings, the FREE interactive early literacy program geared to expectant families and families with infants, complete with songs, fun activities, and freebies. What began as a pilot with the Maryland State Library continues to expand as we identify new partners within the community. 

The goal of Hatchlings is to familiarize families with the following concepts: 

  • Babies introduced early to books and reading become children who perform better in school.  
  • Reciting nursery rhymes and singing songs helps your baby get ready to learn to read.  
  • Reading and singing help with baby’s brain and language development.  
  • Best of all, the majority of this can be done within everyday routines and activities! 

Current partnerships include The Family Institute of Howard County’s Department of Community Resources and Services, Howard County General Hospital’s New Moms Support Group, The Judy Center, and more. Sessions are held at community partner locations, as well as in branch. The collaboration between HCLS and these organizations has increased caregivers’ knowledge of general county resources available to their families – many of which they are surprised to discover are free – as well as children’s library classes and items available for borrowing (e.g., our educational toy collection). 

As the program grows, we are beginning to see an overlap in participants who have attended other events and have happened to make their way to Hatchlings. Some caregivers are astonished to learn that the library is coordinating the sessions outside of the branch, and the concept has changed their understanding of where library activity takes place.

So, as you can see, the library is more than just a building! HCLS models regularly the importance and benefits of bringing the library to the community, and how such partnerships leverage the great work we do.

Sylvia is a Children’s Instructor and Research Specialist at the Miller Branch. She enjoys crafting, listening to audiobooks, naps, and walks with her dogs in 75 degree-ish weather.

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