Whenever our baby/toddler story time is underway, I can hear the faint strains of “Shake, Shake, Shake Your Sillies Out” drifting up through the floor of my office. It never fails to make me smile. Once in a while, it sends me downstairs to soak up a little fun in the children’s department among the dozens of families enjoying story time or other programs. It is a happy place.
Babytime/toddler story time is especially fun, with lots of music, movement, and expression. You can just see those little faces light up as they begin to connect the rhythm of language with the magic of story. They begin to associate fun and laughter with stories, books, and libraries. It may not look like early literacy instruction, but these playful sequences and repetitions are the solid (and fun) foundation laid for future learning. As much as I enjoy watching the children, I also love seeing the parents and caregivers participate! I admire all the moms and dads, grandmas and grandpas, caregivers and friends who come to sit on little seats and make sure their favorite child has every chance to succeed.
One day while I was downstairs, a woman came in and asked if I worked at the library, and asked if I knew where she could get a recording of the toddler story time songs. It wasn’t too unusual a request, but the rest of the rest of her story certainly was.
It turned out that this patron was a grandma. Her grandson, Rylan, was known to our staff as a bright-eyed, curly-headed, curious little boy who loved story time. But at the age of two and a half, he had nearly drowned several weeks before in a local apartment pond. He had survived, but was still fighting to recover from the traumatic brain injury that resulted, and was still in the hospital. His mother and Grandma noticed that when they sang the story time songs to him, his eyes fastened on theirs. And when they stopped singing, he looked back and forth from one person to another as if to say, “Why did you stop? Keep singing!” Encouraged by the light of recognition in his eyes, his Grandma had stopped by that day to try to bring a copy of the CD played in story time to his bedside. Needless to say, we found the music and made her a CD. She told us that he’d be back in story time just as soon as he was able.
We are excited to share that Rylan is now back at story time with Grandma, and we are all rooting for him as he continues to recover. Katharine, our story time librarian, says that every session he gets better with his responses – last week he was able to nod yes when asked if he wanted bubbles. Another week when Katherine passed out shakers and scarves, he was able to request a blue one. He was especially happy that first week back in June, and wore a big smile whenever they sang the story time songs.
Of course it is a lot more work for Grandma to bring him than it used to be, as he must be carried from van to chair along with his medical equipment and braces. But I have never seen a more determined family. His wide smile is back and his bright eyes are busy taking in the world under those curls. We are so grateful that story time was and continues to be a part of his development. He is still in need of continued therapy, and it comes at great cost. If you would like to help Rylan, please consider visiting his GoFundMe.
We never know what role our early literacy programs will play in the life of a child. But we do know that is a foundation that stays with them, and leads them to greater things.
Cheryl Dobbs, Director