Sitting on the floor, cross-legged, listening to a friendly librarian read aloud from a picture book has been an element of public libraries since their inception. And with increased focus on the importance of early childhood education and literacy, libraries have adopted new ways to sneak optimal learning experiences into these fun story sessions. At the 10-branch Spokane County Library District, weekly "Play and Learn Storytime" sessions for the littlest learners among us intentionally incorporate elements of the STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) philosophy while children listen and engage during the story.
"Usually books are chosen because they have some sort of subject or topic of interest to kids that uses imagination," explains SCLD's Jane Baker. "But it's not just the reading — kids are learning to recognize letters and words, and it brings in counting and fine and large motor skills."
The hour-long storytimes offered as regular events on the library's calendar are organized by age group, with sessions for ages 0 to 18 months, ages 1½ to 3, ages 2 to 5, ages 3 to 5 and family storytimes for all ages.
Baker says besides offering weekly sessions at all branches, the library has developed an outreach program to bring Play and Learn sessions to dozens of childcare centers in the region. Organizations or parents can also check out kits that include all the books and activity materials needed to host their own sessions.
"Storytime is very important to kids and early literacy, but it's become more sophisticated as time goes on," Baker says. "Early childhood learning is still one of the hallmarks of our strategies in reaching out."
For details on Play and Learn Storytime at your closest branch, visit scld.org and click "events."