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Want to Raise Kids Who Love to Read?

Susan Mankowski, Early Childhood SpecialistAttend a library story time!

By:  Susan Mankowski, Early Childhood Specialist

I love meeting parents when I visit our libraries. Most tell me how much their children enjoy library story time—which is music to my ears. But some say they read with their children at home so they don’t need to attend a library story time.        Children move to rhythm of song.

While I applaud reading at home, I wish all parents could have been with me last week when I watched Library Assistant  Kim Hamilton at our University Park location enchant children with songs, movement, stories, a flannel board, finger games, and a game with a wonderfully amusing rhyme.

Yes, story time is much more than reading stories.

Eleven children and their parents ventured out on this particular cold, rainy day. But it was all warmth and smiles inside the children’s room. Ages ranged from so young they stayed in parent’s arms to four year olds who had all the answers.

“Are cookies good for your teeth?” Hamilton asked the children. “Yes,” was the answer.  Hamilton and guest Adriana Giles, former dentist and now adjunct professor at University of North Florida, took turns explaining that while some foods taste good they are not so good for your teeth.

Story times focus on six early reading skills. A big part of my job at the library is conducting early childhood training for staff. While your children are having fun, we are sneaking in all the pre-literacy skills they will need to help them become stronger readers and writers when they reach school age:                                 Story time at University Park Library

  • Oral language and vocabulary
  • Emergent comprehension
  • Phonological awareness
  • Letter knowledge
  • Print motivation & print awareness
  • Pre-writing

Story times build social skills, too.    School readiness is not just about reading. Children are also expected to socialize at school and act within a group setting. During the story time I watched, several two-year-olds eagerly participated with the four-year-olds. Even some of the tiniest visitors were smiling and clapping right on cue. Our Stories for Young Children story time is for ages birth to five, so it’s a great place to bring siblings.                      Child adds to flannel story board

But what if you are not able to attend a story time?  All the things we do can be adapted for home settings. In fact, you can check out a Traveling Tales story time kit to take home. It includes a manual, materials and suggested activities that help build pre-literacy skills. But if you can, come and see at least one story time at your favorite library. I guarantee it will be worth the trip.

Here are my top 10 great reads for young children:  

  1. Grumpy Bird by Jeremy Tankard                                 NextReads
  2. Barnyard Dance by Sandra Boynton
  3. A Boy and His Bunny by Sean Bryan
  4. The Pout-Pout Fish by Deborah Diesen
  5. Go Away, Big Green Monster! by Ed Emberley
  6. A New House for Mouse by Petr Horacek
  7. Where’s My Teddy? by Jez Alborough
  8. Actual Size by Steve Jenkins
  9. The Turn-Around, Upside-Down Alphabet Book by Lisa Campbell Ernst
  10. Is Your Mama a Llama? by Deborah Guarino

Susan Mankowski has worked in Early Childhood Education for 15 years, with the past seven at Jacksonville Public Library. She holds a Master’s in Education from the University of Florida with a dual certification in Literature and Psychology.

Jacksonville Public Library