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The City Journals

Library Encourages Early Literacy

Mar 10, 2016 10:50AM ● By Bryan Scott

By Tori La Rue | [email protected]

Taylorsville - If it’s a Tuesday morning, you’ll likely find Betty Moore and her two-year-old grandson Sebastian at the Taylorsville branch of the Salt Lake County Library. 

Moore and Sebastian have been attending Taylorsville Library’s Baby, Toddler and Me program weekly since January 2015.

The program, which has been going on longer than four years, seeks to give babies and toddlers a head start at literacy and an introduction to libraries, according to Elizabeth Weaver, youth services librarian. 

“It gets them thinking about words,” Weaver said about the program. “A three year-old’s vocabulary can influence his third grade reading level, which can lead to his high school graduation. It’s all really connected, and that’s why early literacy is so important.” 

The half-hour class is divided into two segments. During the first 15 minutes, a librarian leads the babies, toddlers and parents, or other adult chaperones, in songs, imagination games and story time. Then, the librarian breaks out the toys, including blocks, tents and foam letters, and the children have free play.

Sebastian’s favorite parts of class are playing with his favorite toy – the tractor – and story time, Moore said. He’s come to love books since he started attending the program.

There’s ample opportunity for little ones to learn how to interact with each other because usually around 30 people come to the class. The largest turnouts have had over 50 participants, including adults and children.

 “It’s a really good environment for young moms to get their baby socialized and ready for preschool,” Amanda Robison, program participant, said. “It’s also the best thing there is for my daughter to burn off her energy before nap time.” 

Because she believes that children without siblings have a disadvantage in learning how to play with other kids, Robison especially recommended that parents with only one child bring their kids to Baby, Toddler and Me.

Robison and her only child, Amelia, have attended the program for three weeks, and they are already fans. Amelia, nearly 2 years old, scowled during the first few minutes of her first class but warmed up as the group began to sing songs together.

Robison and Amelia practice singing the Baby, Toddler and Me songs at home, which makes Amelia more excited and comfortable in the program. The “Run Song” is Amelia’s favorite, and she’s all smiles when they sing it, according to her mom. 

The songs and motor activities are important aspects of the class because the babies and toddlers have such short attention spans, Weaver said. Weaver incorporates finger movements called finger plays into her stories, songs and chants to combine motor skills with literary learning into one activity.

The point of the program is to give toddlers new experiences because as they experience new things, they can learn new vocabulary.

“Really, just think about what would happen if we just read to all those babies for an hour,” Weaver said. “They want to move all around and explore, which is why Baby, Toddler and Me works like it does.” 

Once children reach the age of three they are allowed to participate in the sister program, Preschool Story Time, which has a slightly bigger focus on reading than Baby, Toddler and Me does. In Preschool Story Time children may participate in the activities with or without the help of their parents.

“One of the reasons to get kids involved in library activities at an early age is that it helps them learn that libraries aren’t scary, and that librarians aren’t scary either,” Weaver said. “Then they know that the library is here for them as a resource.” 

Sebastian, who used to hide his head away from Weaver, now finds her “top-notch,” according to his grandma. He makes it a point to say goodbye to her before he leaves the library, Moore said. 

Baby, Toddler and Me runs from 10:30 to 11 a.m. Tuesday through Thursday at the Taylorsville library. The winter session of Baby, Toddler and Me concluded Feb. 23. Following a two week break, the program will pick back up for spring session beginning on March 15. No registration is necessary.