The Rockville Centre Public Library offers more than just books. Its unique collection of programs is designed to encourage reading in a young audience.
The children’s room is affiliated with Family Place Libraries, a national network of children’s libraries that promotes reading by blending literature with recreation.
“Under that banner, we support play as the earliest form of learning for young children,” said Terry Ain, the library’s head of youth services, as she pointed out a train set and a puppet theater. “Our items are carefully selected for imaginative kind of play.”
Digital reading resources such as Nooks and iPads are also available. The devices facilitate the process of reading for some.
“A child who might need to magnify the words so it’s easier to see, the Nooks have that flexibility,” Ain said.
The library also advocates parents and children reading together. Certain fiction books are designed to help parents explain challenging topics, such as death and divorce, to their children through a storybook narrative and colorful illustrations.
“You’d be surprised how many people come in and they say their pet is sick or a grandparent’s passed away, they’re having trouble with bedtime,” said Ain, flipping through a book called “Visiting Feelings.”
Despite the access to digital information available to many children today, Ain feels that the parenting section is a timeless resource. “When you’re going through it yourself, there’s an intimacy in someone sharing a book with you that you’re not going to get anyplace else,” she said.
Downstairs was Craft Camp, an art class for children 3 to 6. The library takes an in-house approach when running its activities; rather than hiring members from outside agencies, the library’s own staff manages many of the programs.
Emily Corvelle, 31, a youth services librarian, was helping the children build model butterflies. The project was planned to motivate kids to read and learn more about the colorful insects.
“We have our butterfly books on display,” said Corvelle. “We always try to tie literacy into what we’re doing.”
Jasmine Calderon, 9, was quite proud of her work. “I made it because I thought it would be inspiring to make a butterfly,” she said, holding up her creation, which was still wet with glue. “I already have a name for it. It’s Buttercup.”
Another element of the library’s in-house approach is returning generations.
Gina Devestern attended the library as a teen to complete book reports. Today, the library allows her 7-year-old daughter, Brianna, to explore her creativity as well as make new friends. “She gets to interact with new children instead of the friends in school,” Gina said.
“In a job like this you just keep growing,” said Ain, regarding her 15 year experience at the library. “Gina’s a young mom. She was in high school when I met her. Now, she has a child in the library.”
Jourdin Thomas is a student volunteer at the library and a resident of Rockville Centre. She enjoys giving back to the community.
“I just think it’s really important to help people, especially little kids who can’t do everything for themselves,” said Thomas, 14. “You can assist them, guide them through whatever they need.”
In addition to reading, the library has other, non-traditional activities, such as the Saturday video game events. Although gaming seems to contradict the reading aspect of a library, Corvelle believes the two are linked.
“We’re not only helping the motor skills of children playing the games, but there’s all different kinds of literacy that people don’t really understand that are tied into video games,” she said. “Just because you’re looking at a screen doesn’t mean you’re not reading … When you run a video game program, you get kids in who never use the library. When they come in and they see this is a place they can be, often times, they’ll be users of other things after that.”
The library hopes to continue evolving to meet the needs of its young members in an constantly changing digital age.
“We’re always looking for how we can stay relevant, what we’re going to add,” said Ain. “A few years ago we didn’t have iPads, now we have iPads. There’s always a new frontier out there that we’re looking to get involved with.”