COMMUNITY SPIRIT: Library program gets kids' reading started early

Brian D. King | Daily Press

Librarian Michelle Newton hosts Toddler Tales and Reading Rock Stars on Wednesday morning to help toddlers and preschoolers to get ready for school. On Dec. 1, they will be reading books on pigs and do a craft to develop motor skills and have fun.

Every week, the Tahlequah Public Library hosts an exceptionally young community that is learning to count, run, jump and play.

Toddler Tales is for children ages 2-3, and they meet in the downstairs room on Wednesdays at 10 a.m., and at 11 a.m., the library hosts 3- to 5-year-olds. During their 45-minute program, librarians help the children to develop reading and motor skills, which they hope will set them on a positive learning course throughout the rest of their lives.

During their time, they sing music, tell stories, play with scarves, read a book, play with bubbles, and they always do a craft. For the 3- to 5-year-olds, they read a book that is a little bit longer, but otherwise, the program is mostly the same.

“With toddlers, you usually have a three-minute attention span for reading books,” said Michelle Newton, TPL librarian. “We cram a lot of activities in that 30 minutes. We do gross motor skills, we do fine motor skills with story time crafts. It’s all about learning. All of our activities will fit some kind of learning skills.”

They learn kinetics as they play with scarves and touch their toes. They learn body parts, animal sounds, and associating ideas with images.

“Lots of learning going on in this 30-minute fun,” she said.

Every week, Newton chooses a different book to read to the children. She also picks out crafts that connect with the books they read. In so doing, she creates enthusiasm for the books she reads to the children.

“Books are usually planned around a craft. We will do a pig story in a couple of weeks, so we will do a pig craft,” said Newton. “These books are all about pigs, or have a pig as a main character.”

In the future, she plans to hold crafts involving boats and robots, and she will find corresponding books with those topics.

For parents, she recommends reading to children at home.

“When you are developing readers, it doesn’t take much. It starts when they crawl into a parent’s lap during an evening routine. They’ll climb up, and just look at pictures. That’s the first step. Before you know it, they’ll be in chapter books. And then they are off on grand adventures,” she said.

It is important to start early so children can develop skills to learn on their own. She said these kinds of skills will be used throughout their lives.

Newton has been working at the library for 14 years. The kids she worked with when she started have now graduated from high school and are bringing their own children to library programs, such as Toddler Tales.

They are working to maintain a safe environment amid the pandemic, and are doing their best to social distance. Children may wear a mask if they wish.

Check it out

The next Toddler Tales event will take place on Dec. 1 at 10 a.m. followed by Reading Rock Stars at 11 a.m. For questions, call 918-456-2581.

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