National Library Week 2016: Library transforms young people |

National Library Week 2016: Library transforms young people

Teri Alton, shown here talking with a library patron, can often be found in the children’s room at the Madelyn Helling Library, said she loves watching reluctant readers transform through the Paws to Read program.
Courtesy photo by Kim Palaferri |

Editor’s note: This is the third in a week-long series of stories highlighting our local libraries in recognition of National Library Week (April 10-16).

Many of us have happy childhood memories of time spent in a library. I can remember going to the library regularly during the summer – it was close to the town pool, where my mother taught swimming – to get piles of books to read and put on my summer reading list.

If you read a certain number of books, your name would be posted in the children’s room, written on a construction paper shape that had something to do with that year’s summer theme, like a magnifying glass for a detective theme or an animal for a zoo theme. As you read even more books, you might reach a different level with a different shape … and my competitive nature was unleashed. If one of my classmates reached a level first, I became very hard to live with.

Eventually I grew out of the need to change something as enjoyable as reading into a grudge match, but I can still remember the excitement of seeing my name on the wall of the children’s room, part of the community of book lovers and readers. Summer reading programs at libraries are designed to promote early literacy and foster the joy of recreational reading, as are year-round programs for our younger library users. The programs and services for children and young adults in the Nevada County Library system are no exception.

Teri Alton, who can often be found in the children’s room at the Madelyn Helling Library, loves watching reluctant readers transform through the Paws to Read program. Volunteers bring specially-trained therapy dogs to the library and children have ten minutes or so with the most nonjudgmental listeners you can imagine. No matter how slowly or shyly the children read, the dogs offer unconditional love and acceptance. “Even the kids who don’t know how to read will hold a book in front of the dog’s face and tell a story with the pictures,” notes Alton. “They want to pass the story on to the dog. It makes them feel good that they have something to offer. They will even contort their bodies so the dog can see the book – it’s so important for them to share.”

Alton is looking forward to the Summer Reading Program, which begins in June. “The kids get amped up for reading during the summer. It keeps their minds ready for school and they don’t even realize it,” she says. A great deal of thought goes into planning programs throughout the year, such as storytimes, crafts, and special programs like last year’s Harry Potter Day. Alton often puts a craft project out after Preschool Storytime. “It’s a big free-for-all; it’s crazy messy fun,” says Alton. “You never know what you will find when you come in to the children’s room. We put out craft materials and see what happens. It’s a fun place to have a good time.”

At the Grass Valley Library, John Wingerd presides over the children’s and young adult areas. John enjoys helping and supporting the parents who bring their children to the library. Staff members Sydney Joyce and Tracey Lilyquist appear to be having as much fun as the infants and toddlers when they host Mother Goose Storytime. Full of energy, they sing songs and share rhymes with our youngest library users and their caregivers, giving them an early introduction to literacy, social interaction, and fun at the library.

In Truckee, another Teri – Teri Rinne – has been the Youth Services Librarian for more than sixteen years. She credits the Harry Potter series with suddenly making it “cool” for tweens and teens to read and remembers Roald Dahl’s James and the Giant Peach as the book that made her fall in love with reading. “I want everyone to experience what a gift reading can be!” says Rinne. “You are never alone if you have a good book to read.”

The Truckee Library is unique among the Nevada County Libraries in that it hosts a Winter Reading Program every year. The Winter Reading Program is designed to encourage reading during school breaks, curled up by the fire, as the snow falls outside. The program concludes with an after-hours pizza party in the library. Teri notes that one of her favorite memories is from the epic snow season of 2011. “We had to cancel the celebration party three times due to snowstorms!” she remarks. “We need more winters like that!”

If you have a child or grandchild and haven’t explored all of resources and fun available to you at your local Nevada County Library branch, I hope you will do so soon. If your child is five years or older, he or she can get a library card – and this is a great week to sign up! The child will be able to enter our drawing for a free iPad Mini and so will you, because you brought him or her to the library! Many thanks to the Friends of the Nevada County Libraries for donating the iPad Mini.

Laura Pappani is the Nevada County Librarian.

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