Op-Ed

Library offers parents help for tough talks on screen time, death

Parents, grandparents, and other caregivers are a child’s first and best teachers, and the Bellingham Public Library can help. It has all kinds of resources for the big people who are so important in little people’s lives.
Parents, grandparents, and other caregivers are a child’s first and best teachers, and the Bellingham Public Library can help. It has all kinds of resources for the big people who are so important in little people’s lives. Courtesy to The Bellingham Herald

Do you have a child in your life? Parents, grandparents and other caregivers are a child’s first and best teachers, long before they start school. The Bellingham Public Library has resources to support parenting and caregiving, and is increasing emphasis on parenting education in the months ahead.

Storytimes led by experienced educators, videos emphasizing early literacy practices for parents to try out at home, a new education series planned this fall at the library, and more: we have all kinds of resources for the big people who are so important in our little people’s lives.

Series for parents and caregivers

In recognition of parents and caregivers as a child’s first teachers, we want to support the great work already being done every day. We all want to do our best for our children, but sometimes we don’t know how to approach an issue or a topic.

The Bellingham Public Library is helping parents, caregivers and teachers tackle two issues that families often have questions about: the use of screen media during early childhood and how to talk about death with children and teenagers.

This fall we are hosting the following free education sessions to connect families directly with the latest research as well as practical advice about these sometimes-challenging issues.

Using Screen Media with Young Children

Sept. 29, 6-7:30 p.m., Central Library Lecture Room: Screens are everywhere. Dr. Sarah Lytle, director of Outreach and Education with the University of Washington’s Institute for Learning & Brain Sciences, will present the latest research on the trends of screen media and toys and the impacts, both positive and negative, on the use of screens during early childhood. Attendees will explore important cognitive advances children make during the first years of life that impact their ability to learn from screens and discuss many practical applications and resources available to make the most of this ever-present media technology.

Books for Young People about Death and Loss

Oct. 27, 5:30-6:30 p.m., Central Library Lecture Room: If you are concerned about discussing death with children or youths, you’re not alone. Many of us hesitate to talk about death, particularly with children. But death is an inescapable fact of life, and although these conversations about death and loss are difficult to have, they are important.

Join Marie Eaton, director of the Palliative Care Institute at WWU; Sylvia Tag, librarian and curator of the Children’s Literature Collection at WWU; and Thom Barthelmess, youth services manager at the Whatcom County Library System, for an introduction to the books that can provide pathways to these difficult conversations, and tips for introducing them with the young people in your life.

All Bellingham Public Library events are free. These two programs are sponsored by the Friends of the Bellingham Public Library.

Storytimes are for children and parents

Of course, public libraries are well-known for children’s storytimes. At Bellingham Public Library we hold 15 storytimes serving about 275 children and their parents each week.

But did you know that storytimes are as much for the parents as for the children?

Our goal in storytime is to strengthen family bonds through sharing stories, songs, movement and crafts. These are interactive experiences for parents/caregivers and children, and adult participation is key to their success.

Additionally, staff who present storytimes model ways to read stories aloud to children and love to introduce children and families to new songs, stories and ideas. Each staff member has their own style, tricks and tips and we hope to inspire families to continue singing songs, sharing books and exploring ideas and our world at home.

Proven practices support families

These are just a few of the ways we support people to be a child’s first and best teacher. Learn more about our programs for children, teens, parents, teachers and caregivers by visiting the Children’s Department at the Central Library downtown. Or find us online at bellinghampubliclibrary.org.

Bethany Hoglund is the head of Youth Services for the Bellingham Public Library.

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