Inspiring A Love Of Reading ~ By Terry Callahan

“There are many little ways to enlarge your child’s world. Love of books is the best of all.” – Jacqueline Kennedy
Children of all ages enjoy books. Laura Powell, Senior Youth Services Librarian at the Talbot County Free Library, Easton, says, “I’ve seen babies grow into toddlers able to follow along with every finger rhyme, whether or not they can speak it yet. It’s always the right time to introduce children to books! Babies and toddlers love to have a story read to them. When a child has a person read a book to him or her, they are all in! The child may help turn the pages, anticipate what happens next, repeat the ending rhyming words, and watch eagerly as the story comes to a wonderful conclusion.  It’s a page-turning adventure. Their minds are growing with imagination, empathy, language tools and vocabulary and they feel included and a sense of belonging, whether they are enjoying the story with one parent or caregiver, or in a group and all are enjoying the book together.” Story Time engages children with stories and books on a regular basis. The children’s section has a wide selection of books for its readers, including a large collection of board books perfect for babies and toddlers.
A book that attracts one child may not look interesting to another. Laura assists children to choose books that appeal to them. “Children are attracted to books probably the same way we all are: by how it looks and what it seems to be about, plus a little curiosity. If I am nearby and the child seems to want some sort of direction on book selection, I like to start by telling the child about the story, maybe about the author and / or illustrator, but definitely about the story, all the way until you get to the problem. (Most stories have problems.) Then I ask: ‘Do you want to find out what happens?’”
For non-fiction books or biographies, “the cultivation of curiosity is a little different.” Rather than telling a story, Laura lets the child know what the book is about, and asks them if they want to know more, a simple way to help a child select the book that is just right for him or her. “I like to keep books on display during the year to match the seasons or holidays of the time of year. And also, I find children are attracted to books on a topic about which they are engaged in learning, so there are book displays that match our library program topics.”
Books for the youth section are selected in many ways. Diana Hastings, Youth Librarian at the St. Michaels branch, makes suggestions on book selection as well as do other library staffers. Children’s books are reviewed in the New York Times Book Review weekly. Laura also uses library journal review articles, bestseller lists, children’s literature award lists, and input by library patrons. “For example, the library recently purchased a children’s series of biographies that includes one on Jane Goodall by Sanchez Vegara and Maria Isabel at the request of a parent who had taken her children to hear Jane Goodall speak in Washington DC recently.”
Picture books, children’s fiction and graphic novels are popular, as are books that are part of a series. “The children find something they love and they come back for more! The library also lends Launchpads, bilingual picture books and we are getting ready to add a brand-new material type called VOX Books: Books that Talk. It is a picture book that has the audio built into the book itself. The child can read along and hear the book being read aloud at the same time.”
“Imagination Library, Judy Center, and Raise a Reader-TCPS work with us each in their own way to help promote and make reading fun for young children,” adds Library Director Dana Newman. Additionally, the library will host the Chesapeake Children’s Book Festival again this year, scheduled for June 13, 2020. The festival “is an exciting way for young children to meet the creators of great books and characters which in turn can get them excited,” says Dana. The library will also be working with Imagination Library this summer “to build awareness in more younger kids and their families about the benefits and fun that they can have participating in the summer reading program.”
For more information about Story Time, children’s programs and special events, contact the Talbot County Free Library at (410) 822-1626 or visit the website, tcfl.org.