Photo by Heather Middleton
By Curt Yeomans
During "Family Storytime," on Tuesday, 35 local children sat quietly as they listened to Diane Flores, read beach-themed books to them.
The children, who ranged in age from 3 to 6, sat cross-legged on the carpet, while Flores -- the assistant youth services librarian at the Clayton County Library System's headquarters branch -- read books such as Petra Mathers' "Lottie's New Beach Towel," and Linda Ashman's "To the Beach."
Some of the youngsters leaned forward, with their gazes fixed on the librarian, as she slowly read the words on each page, before turning to a new page.
"It's good to read aloud to children, from the newborns all the way up to even the middle school students, to get them interested in books," Flores said. "We do this to encourage literacy, to get them to read more books. It's a good reading-readiness program."
This was just one of two "Family Storytime" sessions hosted every Tuesday morning, throughout the year at the library, which is located at 865 Battle Creek Road, in Jonesboro. The session, held from 11 a.m., to noon, was for preschoolers, kindergartners and first-graders. There is an earlier session, held from 10 a.m., to 11 a.m., for children ages 21 months to 3 years old.
But, the proram is not just for children. As the name suggests, it is designed to get the parents involved as well. As Flores read to the children, sitting behind them were a dozen mothers, grandmothers and aunts. According to the library system's web site, the sessions are for families only.
Sometimes, the adults' laps served as chairs for the children while Flores read aloud to the group. Whenever the children got up to sing a song between readings, the adults got up, too, and sang along with the youngsters.
"I like that's it all about parental involvement," said Riverdale resident, Johnnelle Terrell. She has been bringing her nephew, Malcolm Booth, 3, to the sessions every week for the last month. "I think it's really important for parents to get involved in the lives of their children."
Stockbridge resident, Mandy St. Jacques, said she takes her daughter, Sophia, 3, to the sessions every week. She said it is common to see parents participate in the sing-a-longs, listening to Flores, and making crafts after the readings.
"I like just being able to participate with my daughter," St. Jacques said. "You can set an example for your children about how to be quiet, how to listen, and how to behave during the storytime."
Juanita Green, of Riverdale, said parents also get something to hold onto, in the form of the crafts made by their children. As her daughter, Annisha, 3, colored in a picture of a beach, the mother said, "I'm going to put this in a folder I'm keeping of all of the things she makes here."
She said one of the benefits she has seen from the storytime gatherings is that her daughter is learning to interact with other children her age, before heading off to school in a few years. "It's helping her out socially," the mother said.
Mandy St. Jacques said she likes the fact that her daughter is being exposed to reading during the summer. She said her daughter has already been introduced to reading through a pre-school program she attends during the school year, but this allows her to continue reading when school is not in session.
"It's nice to give her something to keep enriching her mind over the summer," Mandy St. Jacques said. "She gets to listen to stories, meet other kids and make a craft, which is her favorite part every week."
And, according to Flores, the benefit of the parents sticking around, and participating, is that they can take the activities home and continue participating in them away from the library.
"That way, whatever they [the children] take home with them, the parents do it with them," she said. "It also encourages them to read at home with their children."
On the net:
Clayton County Library System: http://www.claytonpl.org/