Library Story Times Boost Reading Skills
It’s Saturday morning and the children’s room at the Tigard Public Library is hopping. About 20 kids ranging from one to six years old are eagerly waiting for story time to begin. Some are sitting in the front row nearest the story time librarian. Others are more comfortable in their parents’ laps.
The subject today is Counting Sheep. Holly Campbell-Polivka, the children’s librarian, asks who can read the name of the program in colorful magnets on the board. A girl about four-years-old in a pink headband correctly calls out the name. Holly reads several books about sheep, encouraging children to count with her and sing familiar songs that they repeat every week.
Story times at the Library are the high point of the week for some families. Travis Smith, has been bringing his sons to the weekend story time every Saturday for two-and-a-half years. He raves about them and how they have benefited his sons. His five-year-old, who is on the autism spectrum, is reading at a first-grade level.
“He’s a lot more interested in books,” Smith said. “Before he learned to read he wasn’t interested in anything. Singing, too. He is very interested in music because of singing here. A year ago he didn’t like music. We couldn’t even play it in the car. Now we’re Raffi fans and he asked for a ukulele for Christmas.”
Smith’s experience is echoed by other parents. David Nicoli is a high school reading teacher with two daughters ages 3 and 18 months. He knows the value of learning to read early. “The more they get involved in reading now, the less they will struggle in high school.”
With the city facing cutbacks, story times may be at risk. The library currently has to turn people away from their weekday story times.
“Story times are essential in instilling the joy of reading in children,” said Margaret Barnes, library director. “Without additional funding, we may need to cut the number we offer and turn away even more families.”
Several parents also mentioned the opportunity for socialization for both kids and parents. “I’m a stay-at-home mom, so it’s an opportunity to get out of the house,” said Sarah Carrico. “We have a tight budget. I couldn’t afford to go to Gymboree. These programs are free. I don’t know what I would do if they weren’t part of our routine.”
Holly notes that story times benefit the community. “Friendships develop at story time. They bring people together.”
Parents also appreciate the tips Holly gives them on how they can continue the lessons at home. Today, she suggests that parents choose books that rhyme. “When they hear rhymes, it helps them hear distinctive sounds. It helps prepare them to read.”
If the number of story times were reduced, “We would have a lot of unhappy patrons,” Holly says. “We have a lot of parents who make story times part of their regular routine.”