Opinion

Bellingham library storytimes are fun, engaging and making a difference in early learning

When you think of free storytimes at the library, do you think of rich learning opportunities led by caring early literacy experts that are fun for children and adults? If you said “yes,” you’re right! Just ask the children, parents and caregivers who made more than 16,600 visits to Bellingham Public Library storytimes last year. Or take a few minutes to learn more about our programs and research showing how important storytimes are to early learning.

Library storytimes matter. That was the conclusion of the University of Washington’s Valuable Initiatives in Early Learning that Work Successfully (VIEWS2) study completed in 2014. This research shows that storytimes help develop early literacy and other essential skills necessary for reading and school success.

Storytimes matter

This research specifically demonstrated that focusing on early literacy skills during library storytimes makes a difference and that’s exactly what we do. Our storytimes are interactive for parents and children, because parents are their children’s first and best teachers. We incorporate five key practices into our activities to prepare children for school success: talking, singing, reading, writing and playing.

We also encourage families to incorporate these five practices into their everyday life.

We host 13 engaging, educational storytimes each week for children ages birth to 8 years old. In 2014, we presented 431 storytimes to a total audience of 16,671 children, parents and caregivers who experienced how fun and easy it is to talk, sing, read, write and play together.

Each of these practices can, and should, begin at birth. We educate parents on creative ways to interact with newborns, as well as throughout the ages and stages of development. We work to reinforce the bonds between parents and children, create a strong foundation for reading and support many other skills that lead to learning and school success. Our storytimes build social, behavioral and emotional skills, encourage movement and motor development, boost creativity, conversation and storytelling and support counting and early math skills.

And they are fun, with lots of wiggling, laughing and clapping, so children and adults want to come back for more!

Dedicated teachers

Our storytime teachers have decades of combined experience teaching and presenting programs for children. We have participated in training to become early literacy experts, and are involved with other organizations to stay current on community needs and teaching trends.

Most importantly, we are passionate about our work, care about results and cherish the opportunity to contribute to young people’s learning!

Early literacy is a priority for many local agencies working together on the common goal of preparing children for success in school and in life. In addition to our joint early literacy efforts with the Whatcom County Library System, we are active partners with the Whatcom Early Learning Alliance, the Early Learning Public Library Partnership and many others.

We enjoy close connections with Bellingham Public Schools, and many of our practices dovetail with pre-K and kindergarten curriculum. Library storytimes often are a child’s first “classroom experience.” Children, parents and caregivers discover age-appropriate ideas at the library that their children will eventually see in school. We are preparing kids, and parents, for the school experience.

More demand

The resources available in our community do not nearly meet the demand for free early literacy programs and services. Our storytimes are currently offered at the Central Library downtown, on weekdays only, and we sometimes turn people away because the room is full. We know more families are unable to attend because of work schedules or transportation or other barriers that limit their access to the library. We hope to have the resources in the future to provide these programs in the evenings, on weekends and out in the community, making them available to more Bellingham families.

Meanwhile, we’ll keep talking, singing, reading, writing and playing at the library, providing engaging and research-based early literacy programs to as many children, parents and caregivers as we can!

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