Even with restrictions and modifications in place due to covid-19, we continue to see our Family Place Library positively impact our community. Families continue to be under a lot of stress, and schooling, daycare, and outside-the-home learning opportunities continue to remain modified, a bit unstable, and limited. As a result, we are now often seeing families come in who are grateful to have a space to stay, read, and play together, to have a space where their children can experience some social interaction, and to be able to provide their young children with an early-learning experience that they feel is safe.
We have been able to restart in-person story times outdoors, and at our story times, we are seeing toddlers who have very limited experience with being around other families or participating in a structured activity. It’s a joy to see them grow and learn as they have this experience, and their parents express gratitude for a program that allows their child to learn these things. For example, one child comes regularly each week with his mother and is just a bit over one year old. At the first story time he came to, he spent most of the time taking walks and didn’t pay much attention to the other kids. Now, 3 months later, he will listen to entire books, participate in songs by making hand motions, wave to the other children, and he recognizes the story time routine. His mother sees this growth too and has said that covid has really limited her family’s ability to find experiences and learning opportunities like this for her son.
Near the end of 2021, we were able to put just a few toys out, and families immediately took notice. Families are spending more time during their visits now that there are some toys available. We see this have an impact on the whole family. The young children are occupied with a positive activity even if their interest in books is low at that particular moment, and this gives parents and older siblings a chance to look at and select more books to take home. The toys generally add to people’s positive experience of the library and help motivate families to keep coming back.