“A house without books is like a room without windows.” —Heinrich Mann (1871-1950), one of the foremost German writers of the twentieth century, elder brother of Nobel Prize winning novelist Thomas Mann. How Oklahoma Libraries are Good for Kids A Room with Windows titude to create a fun place where everyone is welcome. Few people would disagree with the developmental Today, most libraries offer a wide selection ofimportance of books and reading. Today, in a world be- children’s books and magazines. Libraries also lend au-set by change, the importance of reading seems greater dio and video cassettes of children’s books. Consideredthan ever. Children must become literate in the fullest as complements to the written word, many tapes comesense of the word. The demand is for individuals who bundled with books so children can follow along. Asare rich in language, communication and technical more books for children become available on tape, someskills—all of which grow out of reading. To prepare libraries find lending recorded books to be a growingchildren, we must stimulate their curiosity and imagina- service. At the Choctaw Extension Library, circula-tion, cultivate their learning potential, and encourage the tion in audio tapes has doubled this past fiscal yearhabits of lifelong learning. because of the popularity of books on tape. The Alva For many children the place where this happens– Public Library spent 20% of its children’s budget ontheir house filled with books, their room with windows– audio books, including bestsellers and such favoritesis the local public library. With its wealth of books (more as the Goosebumps series.books than any one family can afford), the public library Positive Influencesprovides a fertile ground for the growth of young people. More and more libraries employ a specializedIf knowledge is the key then a local library constitutes a children’s librarian to help administer a variety of pro-brilliant opportunity. Public libraries offer children a grams—ranging from story hours and summer readingchance to mix ideas, knowledge and hope. programs, to homework help. Historically, librarians Fun and Goosebumps serving children and youth have been the vanguard of The most dynamic area in many libraries is the library progress. Experts consider them the originatorschildren’s section. The physical space might be a base- of such ideas as library outreach, deposit collections ofment room, or it might be painted to look like a castle or books, and bookmobile routes for rural areas. Most im-a rocket ship. Whatever the appearance, librarians work portantly, these dedicated individuals have proven pow-to make the area inviting to kids and their parents. Youth erful stimuli in the lives of children, supplying a mix-Services librarians, like Brook Jones of Alva Public ture of attentiveness and encouragement. Like many li-Library, strive to allow children to create their own brarians, Alva’s Brook Jones enjoys working aroundworld. Ms. Jones uses toys, games, and an inclusive at- children and takes a genuine interest in their well-
“ When you read, you want to learn more and more words. It tells you that you can do anything you want—you can get higher goals.” —Muskogee Ten-year Oldbeing while they’re at the library. She believes— a larger role throughout the library. The library willand parents seem to agree—that public libraries have soon have a total of fifteen computers with the major-a definite positive influence on a child’s development. ity configured for Internet exploration. Access to the Extending that positive influence to communities, Internet means access to the world, and librarians canlibraries commonly act as neighborhood centers serv- help families find friendly sites that will help childrening as hosts to various clubs, civic and parent groups. grow.The Edmond Public Library worked this summer On the Road To Readingwith the local 4-H sponsor to offer an aerospace A classic outreach tool is the venerable bookmo-camp, where kids ages 9 to 13 learned about space bile. Dee Ann Ray reports that the Western Plainstravel and built model rockets. In Enid, the public Library System always has at least one bookmo-library and Sooner State Kennel Club sponsored a bile on the road. The daily trips eventually cover aseminar to launch September’s National Dog Week 4,200 square mile area, with the longest being 160with the aim of educating children about what they miles round-trip. In rural areas, the bookmobile is thecan do with and for their dogs. A Tulsa library branch main library for some children. Typically, more thanplayed host to the city’s Snake Club. 50% of the stock of a bookmobile is children’s books. Everyone’s Access to the Future Some schools use bookmobiles to augment school li- Computer literacy will be an essential attribute of braries. Ms. Ray remembers one particularly heavythe work force of the 21st century. A recent Michigan user who recently won the Truman fellowship of theState survey of 525 businesses, industries and govern- Oklahoma State University business school. Studentsmental agencies found that young persons without use bookmobiles to research term papers, and this yearcomputer skills need not apply for new service sector the Burns Flat school won the state History Day con-jobs. To fill the need for computer knowledge, many test doing their work through bookmobiles.libraries have held computer classes for children and As with the bookmobiles of Western Plains, pub-adults. Many libraries are expanding their resources lic libraries have long worked closely with localto include services designed to develop children’s key- schools. Today, libraries across the state are likely toboarding skills and other computer familiarity. The coordinate their shelving decisions according to class-Anadarko Community Library currently has dedi- room project plans. Students are taught how to use acated four computers to CD-ROM educational soft- library and encouraged to stop by often. The Tulsaware, with more on the way. Christina Owen, City-County Library promotes student researchAnadarko’s director, says that computers are playing with a free seminar on how to create a winning sci- Hennessey’s Very Special Volunteer. Hispanic children had been coming to storytime at the public library and enjoying the activities, but they could not understand the stories—that is until twelve-year old Valeria Zubia volun- teered to help. With assistance from her adult sponsor Carolina Orozco, Valeria organized and promoted a summer story hour for Hispanic kids. For eight weeks, Valeria and Carolina read to the children, led them in crafts, and super- vised planned activities for as many as eighteen boys and girls.
ence project. Using local teachers as well as librar-ians as speakers, topics cover all the steps in a project,from choosing and researching a project to design andpresentation. To assist home schooled children, manylibraries offer support and continuing education op-portunities for parents. Brand New Volunteers Libraries are also playing a growing role in nur-turing kids’ community involvement. In some parts ofthe state, libraries are encouraging young people tovolunteer as Junior Friends of the Library. Programs Summer Reading to Enthralled Listeners atgenerally include a reading discussion group followed the Newkirk Public Libraryby volunteer work for their local library. The numberand broad mix of children involved excites librarians.It’s no longer just bookworms and “library weenies.” Muskogee has a new Book Buddies program toteach teenagers how to read to younger children.Teenagers will attend a seminar for certification, wherethey will learn the skills and tools needed to handleyounger children—everything from patience and posi-tive reinforcement to sounding out words. Once theprogram is running, the older students will be readingmore, while earning service hour credit for theirschools. The younger children might just get a rolemodel. From the Cradle On When it comes to the youngest children, evidencenow suggests that full brain development requires be-ing talked to, read to, and exposed to books—and toadults who read. With this in mind, a number of librar-ies have begun reading programs for pre-school chil-dren and their caregivers. Leslie Langley, Poteau’sYouth Services librarian leads a lap-sit program forchildren, newborn to three years old. As many as15 pairs of children and parents meet weekly to par-ticipate in finger play, rhymes, and reading. The five- Kids Gathering Evidence with Charlie Blair,year old program has eager new participants as well Director of Criminal Studies at Northernas parents returning with each new child in their fam- Oklahoma Collegeily. Ms. Langley recounts the response of one youngparticipant who saw her outside the library: “The booklady! Reading … reading!”
For older kids, story hours and storytime continueevident in presentations and activities. A variety ofto play a big role at most libraries across Oklahoma. guests and performers were introduced to the kids.Participants in these reading programs range from pre-Some librarians created mysteries for children to un-school aged children (four and five-year olds) to the tangle. Carnegie Public Library devised a card cata-adults who attended Henryetta’s Not For Children log puzzle, giving kids only a catalog number or aOnly program. Most of these programs go beyond description with which to find a book. Broken Bowreading and discussion to include activities; for ex- Library had children identifying animals from theirample, children at the Duncan Public Library tracks. The Tahlequah Public Library hosted a freelearned to make their own bookmarks. Storytime “Mystery Dinner” (provided by the Friends of the Library) where guests could investigate an intrigueoften incorporates speakers on books or related themes.Librarians have used story programs for outreach too, complete with appearances by mysterious characters.as they take reading to daycare centers, as well as in- In Pawhuska and Edmond, librarians encouragedviting their visits to the library. children to write a mystery based on the Super Budding Writers by the Hundreds Snooper Sleuth posters. In addition to reading, libraries are encouraging Whether it’s in a small town or a large city, there ischildren to write. The Public Library for Enid and a lot going on for children at your public library. Warm,Garfield County shepherds a regular poetry group inviting houses filled with books, libraries offer chil-of children in grades six through nine. Starting out dren opportunities for growth. Providing encourage-shy and reluctant, the young poets change after they ment and support for children, public libraries offer ahave met a few times, and enjoy the support and re- wide view filled with hope.spect of their peers. Tulsa libraries have an annualYoung People’s Writing Contest for kids, ages ten toeighteen, writing poetry, informal essays, short sto-ries, and one-act plays. More than 400 youths enteredthis year. It’s Summer! Let’s Read! An article about children and libraries would notbe complete without discussion of the most extensivechildren’s initiative at most libraries—summer read-ing programs. Nearly 30-years old, the OklahomaDepartment of Libraries’ summer program is designedto furnish incentives for school-aged children to read, Proud Participants of theand to provide entertaining and educational ways for Newkirk Public Librarychildren to pass the summer. The 1997 program, Be a Summer Reading ProgramSuper Snooper Sleuth at Your Library, had 186 librar-ies throughout the state reporting participation. Theselibraries held over 3,000 storytimes or special eventswith 136,658 children attending. For the first time thisyear, libraries in the statewide program allowed chil-dren to set their goals, deciding for themselves howmuch or how long they wanted to read. Libraries of-fered a variety of incentives to encourage kids. Librar-ies in the Metropolitan Library System offered tick-ets to Oklahoma City 89ers baseball and the Okla-homa Children’s Theatre. In the spirit of sleuthing,Poteau’s Buckley Public Library had a mysteryprize, with weekly clues about what was in the box($30 worth of 50-cent pieces). Throughout the summer, mystery themes were
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