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Emmaus Library Understands The Value of Educational Toys

TOPICS | Parenting | Education Posted Friday, July 26, 2013 (1,211 views)

Those people who think of libraries as quiet, subdued places might have to get used to hearing the joyful noises of children at play. Case in point,  Emmaus Public Library recently added a large selection of educational toys to create more of a community gathering spot feel. The transition makes perfect sense as libraries have long filled the purpose of community educational centers. Please continue reading to learn how Emmaus introduction of the program worked.

REPUBLISHED FROM THE EAST PENN NEWS
There were pre-schoolers galore playing happily and noisily with building sets and stuffed animals, puzzles and tambourines. Librarians, who a few years ago might have been shushing them, were handing out more toys and dishing up animal crackers and pretzels.

The additions of toys and a special play area for Emmaus library are part of its evolution from a place just for reading to more of a community gathering spot. Rather than hurt the library's mission of promoting literacy, the librarians see the extras as helping to attract more parents with children, who will in turn read more with their kids.

"We've had parents that say they didn't use to come to here but now they do because there is so much more to do," said Martha Vines, Emmaus youth services librarian.

"We're a much more child-friendly place than we used to be," said Frances Larash, library director.

On Wednesday, more than a dozen children stayed after a story time to try out the new toys in the community room, which also include a wooden train set on a table next to a rocking chair donated by the Emmaus Rotary Club. They were a huge hit with Gina Sacco and her 3-year-old son Anthony. Sacco said her son doesn't like sitting quietly for long periods so the new set up is "fantastic."

"Here he plays with the toys and I can pull books out and he will come and listen to the book and then go play," Sacco said. "It's more comfortable. I don't have to worry about keeping him still to read."

The new toys and games were paid for with a $2,500 federal Preschool Connections grant administered by Pennsylvania's Office of Commonwealth Libraries. The toys are designed to hone kids' motor skills, teach early literacy and encourage imagination and socialization, Larash said. Larash pointed out that while pre-schoolers are more adept today at using technology like iPads and iPhones, they still need to develop the skills that toys and books can give them.

"If you can't read, the Internet isn't going to help you at all," Larash said. "We need to develop literacy and what we're doing is all part of that."

They are trying to encourage families to bring their children for stories and play without alienating older patrons who look to the library as a quiet place to read.

"There's a little bit more noise," Larash said. "Parents kind of keep things under control."

On Wednesday, Aida Sabillon's daughters Shakira and Desire Massand were in perpetual motion among the toys. Two-year-old Desire pronounced the Preschool Connections event "the best party ever" while shaking maracas. Six-year-old Shakira, who was playing with a stuffed bunny, has become a great reader, Sabillon said.

"She's picked it up so quickly," Sabillon said. "She reads to us, she reads to her sister. It's good to get them from an early age interested in books."

Public libraries are evolving to meet the changing needs of the community, Larash said. Emmaus library has several computers for public use, DVDs, CDs and more e-books and downloadable magazines to lend out.

With all that plus the toys, community jigsaw puzzles and events, it is attracting a more diverse group of patrons of all ages, backgrounds and ethnicities, she said.

And the children's delight in the addition of toys demonstrates that kids can still have low-tech fun. Said Vines: "Kids still do have imagination which I think is a wonderful thing."

 




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