Early literacy program gains new venue and day

By 
M.P. Regan
Wednesday, October 19, 2022
Little Big Fireman

Dressed in his own kids-sized fire fighting gear that he brought with him to Thursday’s weekly Storytime session for pre-schoolers at the Dillon Public Library, Sawyer Lacey, 4, takes a turn sitting in the driver’s seat of a fire engine. M.P. Regan photo

A long-running program of the local library designed to engage young children while building their early literacy skills, Storytime’s “once upon a time” recently doubled to twice a week and two different locations in Dillon.

“We had talked about doing a partnership with the library and were very enthusiastic about it,” said Katelin Hughes, the playspace coordinator at The Village, which added a weekly Storytime session to its facility’s itinerary this month.

“We have a huge, beautiful play space,” noted Emily Freeman of The Village’s speciallydesigned, kiddo-centric playroom in the Mary Innes School building just east of the Jaycee Park playground in Dillon “It’s very conducive to play and to meeting people. I thought what a lovely space for Storytime,” added Freeman, executive director of the Early Childhood Coalition of Beaverhead County, a nonprofit whose current primary project is The Village in Dillon.

“We are always looking for opportunities to help kids to grow literacy, especially at such a young age,” added Hughes of the motivation behind the The Village’s Oct. 4 hosting of its first Storytime session for kids aged newborn to kindergarten, modeled after the library’s longrunning Storytime program.

Long a staple of the Dillon Public Library’s weekly schedule, set for Thursdays at 10 a.m., Storytime now offers a second free opportunity for children aged newborn to kindergarten and their caregivers through a regular 11 a.m. session on Tuesdays at The Village.

“Sometimes parents can’t make it to the library for Storytime on Thursdays,” noted Dillon Public Library Director Lori Cannady of the weekly gathering that draws kiddos to the facility’s downstairs children’s room to listen and watch her read stories and lead singalongs and engage in play and craft activities.

“So, now they have the option of also going to a Storytime on Tuesdays at The Village. Or they can go both days.”

Both days will likely be the choice for a lot of kiddos, who get the chance to explore and thrive in a social, psychological, creative—and a literally literary— sense during the hour-long Storytime gatherings.

“Storytime is an opportunity for young children to come and listen to stories and interact with one another in a friendly, educational environment,” said Cannady of the get-togethers that help youngsters cross over their bridges from play to learning and back again.

“The children learn a lot about language. They develop early literacy skills. They learn value of books. They develop communication and concentration and social skills. They learn about their own culture and other cultures. And they have a lot of fun,” said Cannady of the benefits enjoyed by Storytime attendees.

“Early literacy and exposure to early literary activities is a great predictor of success for children. That’s a very compelling part of why were also doing Storytime at The Village,” said Freeman, noting numerous studies documenting how much being read to early in life and learning about books can benefit a person throughout life.

“Those kids will have a greater chance of success in kindergarten and throughout their educations and lives,” said Freeman.

“If it was up to me there would be someplace parents could go where their children could get read to every day of the week, at different times,” said Freeman.

“It’s also great chance for young kids to socialize with one another,” added Cannady of Storytime’s relaxed format that helps preschoolers to form friendships that can extend into, and even beyond, their school years.

“And it’s a great opportunity for parents to meet other parents with young children,” noted Cannady of the weekly early literacy event she combined with the library’s Books & Babies program a few years back.

“The years of early parenting can be pretty exhausting and isolating. It often is just a parent and child at home for long periods of time,” noted Freeman, mother of two schoolaged children.

“So, it’s great to be in a space with other people where another adult is bringing so much energy and enthusiasm and patience,” said Freeman, highlighting the crucial master of ceremonies role played with great skill and a side of relish at Storytime by Hughes on Tuesdays at The Village and Cannady on Thursdays at the library.

“After Storytime ends, the children can move around and play in The Village’s playroom at no cost.”

Kiddos get to do the same at the library, which also moves Storytime to its backyard or across the street to Jaycee Park when the weather permits.

“We usually do Storytime outside when it’s nice,” said Cannady. And we hold a petting zoo every year at a Storytime, so the kids get to learn more about animals. And there’s the Teddy Bear Picnic,” added Cannady of the annual spring finale Storytime holds before it takes a break for summer and steps aside for a few months for the library’s Summer Reading Program.

“We’ve actually did Storytime in Spanish one time this year,” recalled Cannady of a bilingual Storytime led by Blakely Hay, founder of the Intercambios get-togethers that offer people the chance to practice their Spanish each week in Depot Park.

“And we do a lot of themebased Storytimes. Coming up on Oct. 27, we’ll have a Storytime where kids come in their Halloween costumes and police officers and talk about trick or treating safety,” said Cannady, who had fireman at last week’s Storytime in conjunction with Fire Safety Week.

The library will soon also offer Storytime sessions with holiday themes, as will The Village.

“The Early Childhood Coalition of Beaverhead County exists in order to support families with young children,” said Freeman, “and other organizations dedicated to families with young children thrive and increase their reach and capacity.”

Storytime meets on Thursdays at 10 a.m. at the Dillon Public Library, 121 S. Idaho St. in downtown Dillon, and again at 11 a.m. on Tuesdays at The Village, 225 E. Reeder St. in the old Mary Innes School building in Dillon. For more information call the library at 683-4544 or The Village at 406-478-2948 or go to www.earlychildhood406.org.

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