I’ve always been a library lover. Free books! Being surrounded by towering shelves of words and characters and adventures! And if ever I learned that Philly friends had not visited a Free Library location or—gasp—did not have a library card, I extolled what I saw as the best and coolest Free Library offerings: DVDs, streaming audiobooks, fantastic events with authors, health programming, even cooking classes.
Five-and-half months ago I entered a new life phase—parenthood!—and so now has my library usage.
The same cool and engaging library programming still exists, of course. But I have now discovered an entirely NEW library—new for me, at least.
When my husband and I decided to check out the Baby and Toddler Storytime in the Parkway Central Children’s Department, we were first met by a sea of strollers, parked outside the storytime room. Inside, we found a party! Little ones and slightly bigger ones were gleefully making noise, as children’s librarian Miss Mary conducted a chaotic but fun-filled chorus of literary fun. There were stories, of course—but also singing, counting, musical instruments, and bookish toys (including stuffed Wild Things begging to be hugged). We set our tiny Bookworm up on one of the colorful floor cushions and helped her grab tiny instruments and paw at the board books scattered all around the room, as her eyes darted around taking in all the other kids—sitters, crawlers, toddle-ers, and walkers, all showing her what her future holds. We were in awe of how much excitement was packed into the half-hour event, which was filled with children of all backgrounds, from all parts of the city.
She has also checked out the Storytime! at Walnut Street West Library, our local library, with her caregiver, who sent us a video of everyone at storytime chanting Bookworm’s name, as they do to welcome all storytime-goers. One afternoon Bookworm and I were sitting outside our house, and a passerby stopped and called to her by name: "I know her from storytime!" she said. Her time at the library is helping us meet more people and be more a part of our neighborhood.
We’ve found more than just fun-filled storytimes. At Queen Memorial Library, we spent time in the color-filled play area in the children’s section that has toys, which her tiny hands are slowly figuring out how to grab. And we hope to soon check out the Sign Language Storytime at Charles Santore Library, which helps babies learn to communicate before they can speak out loud. We’ve loved that at all these offerings, play, community, and literacy are so closely tied together.
The library has become all new for our family—and a place of wonder for our tiny Bookworm. As she grows, we can’t wait to see how the library grows with us!