By Valerie Baldowski
Two-year-old Mason Law sat next to her mother, paying close attention to the story being read from the front of the room.
She was among more than 30 children who attended Wednesday's "Toddler Tales" children's story time, at the McDonough public library branch.
The story time was geared toward children between 19 and 35 months old, and featured reading, music, singing, and dancing. Law stayed close to her mother during the activities, but joined in with the singing and dancing.
Alex Law, Mason's mother, said she and her daughter regularly attend the story times at the McDonough library.
"Take it from someone who has a learning disability," said Alex Law, "I think it's very important for her to learn how to have an idea of words, and how the letters go together."
Alex Law said she has dyslexia, and that she is not sure if her daughter will develop it.
"If she doesn't have it, that's wonderful," Alex Law said. "If she does, at least she has the beginning of the understanding of it, so she won't be overwhelmed with it later on."
The regular interaction with other children at the story time events also helps her daughter develop social skills, she added.
The activities were led by Debbie Zerkle, the library's children's services specialist.
Zerkle began by leading the group of children and adults in singing "Happy Birthday" in honor of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, whose birthday was Jan. 27. The group also danced to some of Mozart's music, and listened while Zerkle read "Zin Zin Zin Goes the Violin," "Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star," and "The Sleepy House."
Zerkle said reading is a primary activity in her family. "My daughters read to my grandchildren ever since they were little," she said.
Reading is critical in a young child's development, Zerkle added.
"It's really important," she said. "That first two years, their little brains are like sponges. The more they're read to, the more their brain is going to develop."
Children not exposed to books and reading early on, Zerkle said, will not advance as well after age 4 or 5.
Christy Maddox of McDonough, and her 3-year-old daughter, Lily, were also at the story time.
"We come weekly," said Maddox. "It's fun for my daughter, and it's educational. She loves to check out the books after story time."
The McDonough story times are part of an organized reading program throughout the Henry County library system.
Kathy White, children's specialist for the Stockbridge library branch, said being read to at a young age led to her love of reading later in life.
"My mother read to me," White said. "That's some of my earliest and fondest memories of my mother, picking me up and reading to me and my siblings. It put in me a love of reading."
Reading also sparks children's' imaginations, she said.
"It's important to read to the kids, to hopefully make them want to read the stories," she said. "If I do a book talk, I leave them hanging. I don't tell them what happens in the book. I tell them, 'If you want to know what happens, you'll have to check this book out and read it.'"