2013-11-01 / In the News

Library receives early literacy grant

By Michael Kelley Staff Writer


Marilyn Taylor, youth services assistant at the Scarborough Public Library, reads part of a children’s book to Maggie Bernstein, 13 months, of Scarborough and other members of this week’s Baby Lapsit, a weekly session of stories, songs and movement activities for children 18 months old and younger. The library has received grant funding from Family Place Libraries to become a children’s literacy and development resource center in town. (Michael Kelley photo) Marilyn Taylor, youth services assistant at the Scarborough Public Library, reads part of a children’s book to Maggie Bernstein, 13 months, of Scarborough and other members of this week’s Baby Lapsit, a weekly session of stories, songs and movement activities for children 18 months old and younger. The library has received grant funding from Family Place Libraries to become a children’s literacy and development resource center in town. (Michael Kelley photo) Librarians at Scarborough Public Library have for years been committed to getting children interested in reading from an early age.

Earlier this fall, the library found out it has received grant funding from Family Place Libraries to continue and improve the early literacy and child development programming it offers.

Youth Services Librarian Louise Capizzo said the library applied to be considered a Family Place Library in 2008.

“It takes a while to find out,” said Louise Capizzo, Scarborough Public Library’s children’s librarian. “They liked what we said about ourselves: that we were a diverse community and that we had a very strong early literacy connection in our community and that we offer really great programming for preschool learners. That is a key component of Family Place Libraries.”

According to its website, Family Place Libraries is “a network of children’s librarians nationwide who believe that literacy begins at birth and that libraries can help build healthy communities by nourishing healthy families.”

There are more than 300 libraries in 23 states that have received the honor, including libraries in Auburn, Biddeford, Cape Elizabeth, Kittery, Norway, Portland, Presque Isle, Rockland, Topsham, Waterville, Westbrook and Wilton.

“They understand the first three years of life are critically important for development and sets the foundation for everything else in life,” said Kathleen Deerr, the national coordinator of Family Place Libraries.

Deerr said the grant funding will provide training on early literacy and child development and three years of technical assistance.

On Nov. 4, Capizzo will begin a threeday training session at the Middle County Public Library in Long Island, N.Y. While there, Capizzo will visit Family Place Libraries and learn about early childhood development and how literacy helps the brain. Capizzo will head to New York with librarians from the Thomas Memorial Library in Cape Elizabeth, the Walker Library in Westbrook and the Topsham Public Library in Topsham, which have all been named Family Place Libraries.

“We will become a center for early literacy and connect with organizations that support parents and young children. We will be able to teach parents how to read to their children and the importance of early literacy,” Capizzo said.

Participation in the Family Place Libraries network will help the library improve the early childhood programming it offers, as well as serve as a reference center for child development.

“The library provides a great environment for all sorts of things to grow from,” Deerr said.

According to the October 2013 issue of Footnotes* Plus, the monthly publication of the Scarborough Public Library, in 2012, the library offered 280 youth programs both on site and out in the community. The programming was attended by more than 6,540 children and 1,500 adults.

This fall, the library is offering four weekly events: Baby Lapsit for children 18 months old and younger, Tuesdays at 9:30 a.m.; Toddler Time for children 18 months and older, Tuesdays at 10:30 a.m.; Family Story for children 3 years old and older, Thursdays at 10:30 a.m.; and Read to Me for children 3 years old and older Saturdays at 10:30 a.m. On the first Tuesday of the month at 6:30 p.m., the library hosts a Pajamarama, an event for children 4 years old and older that involves stories and crafts.

Marilyn Taylor, who leads the Baby Lapsit and Toddler Time, said the events help build connections among parents and children.

“It’s as much modeling behavior to parents as it is about providing a service to children,” said Taylor, who has been a youth services librarian at the library for 18 years. “The behavior we are striving for is how to read and how to interact with your child.”

“It is a way of connecting parents and children of similar ages so the community can grow,” Taylor added.

This sense of connection is what attracted Aim’ee Lerman to Baby Lapsit, which she has been coming to with her son, Jonah, 16 months old, for a year.

“It’s nice because he can get out and be around kids his own age,” Lerman said.

During the half-hour session, Taylor said she uses a lot of rhymes and songs, as well as stories and movement activities to keep the children active and interested.

Doing so, she said, “helps to educate their ears to the flow of language, which will help in the long run for reading.”

Lerman said she is able to incorporate a lot of the songs and stories that Taylor uses as she reads to Jonah at home.

“I like having a love of learning and reading and bringing him to a place that encourages young readers,” Lerman said.

Aside from training youth service librarians and enhancing early literacy programming, Scarborough Public Library will do more outreach in the community by visiting nursery schools and day care centers. Since the Family Place Library program focuses on developing the literacy skills of children younger than 5 years old, the program initiatives will not interfere with the literacy work at the town’s three primary schools, Capizzo said.

“Family Place Libraries really focuses on the whole child,” Deerr said.

As part of adopting the Family Place Libraries’ philosophy, the youth services area at the library may be rearranged. The changes, Capizzo said, would be minor in nature and could include setting up a more defined play or story area for children or a place for parents to connect to talk about child rearing.

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