By Mark Scheerer of the Nevada News Service
LAS VEGAS — President Obama highlighted support for early learning in his State of the Union address. He should go to the library, according to advocates for using the public library as a key part of the learning process for toddlers to 4-year-olds.
Many libraries these days are more than musty book stacks and card catalogs and maybe an occasional story-time session. They are becoming fun and inexpensive places for children and parents to write the opening chapters in a lifetime of learning.
Sandy Feinberg runs a national program, Family Place Libraries, that teaches librarians how to adapt to the needs of pre-kindergarten kids.
“A public space, well stocked with materials, open from nine to nine every day and the weekends, where parents or caregivers can go with their young kids,” Feinberg envisioned the local library. “It’s a wonderful idea waiting to happen, isn’t it?
A recent nationwide survey by the Pew Research Center found that 82 percent of those polled “strongly support libraries offering free early literacy programs to help young children prepare for school.
Feinberg’s group has overseen the creation of Family Place Libraries at 400 sites in 24 states. She said she is pleased at the attention paid to pre-K issues by President Obama, but would like to see some public support – and funding – for libraries.
“The government can only think, ‘Well, we’ll put money into schools, therefore we can do universal pre-K,’” she said. “But it’s really at the young level that the parent can be so much more empowered. Libraries are just a silent kind of institution, so many times.”
However, she quickly added, libraries are not THAT silent: It would be a lost cause for toddlers using library learning areas to be “shushed” by librarians.