Closing the libraries and the schools has not closed Cumberland County children off from the world of books.
Community libraries, the Carlisle Police Department and others have been sharing stories with children via Facebook Live since early in the pandemic.
Story time is a regular program at Bosler Memorial Library when the library is open, said Melissa Killinger, youth services coordinator at the library. When the library closed, the staff looked for ways to continue to connect children with books.
“We thought doing a virtual story time was a fairly easy way to do that,” she said.
Bosler’s story time is aimed for children between the ages of 3 and 6 or 7, Killinger said. Stories are posted daily between noon and 12:30 p.m. on Bosler’s Facebook page. The library website has links to all of the stories that have been read at https://www.cumberlandcountylibraries.org/BOS_VirtualStorytime.
Most publishers of children’s materials made libraries’ quest to continue to connect with their smallest patrons easier by loosening restrictions on how the books are presented in online videos, provided those videos are taken down by June 30, Killinger said.
Early in March, before stay-at-home orders were put in place, the library held virtual field trips with staff members reading from locations in the area. In one popular post, a library staff member who also runs an animal rescue read Craig Smith’s “Wonky Donkey” with the help of a farrier who was at the rescue to take care of a donkey’s feet.
Killinger said it’s important to keep children engaged, especially since school is not in session, so that they continue to have interaction with books and maintain literacy skills. It’s not the same, though, as seeing the children in person for story time.
“We are looking forward to seeing all of our patrons, young and old, again,” she said.
Coy Public Library of Shippensburg targeted its story time for older readers.
“With everyone focusing on picture books, I thought it might be nice to do a chapter book and something that was more engaging for older kids and adults who wanted to relive a possible childhood favorite during this time,” said Samantha McCulloch, the library’s director of youth services.
On a practical note, McCulloch said she didn’t have the chance to check out picture books from the library to bring home. So, when she started thinking about reading online, she looked at what she had in her personal collection that she could read while being respectful of the copyrights of individual works. Her finalists were “The Secret Garden,” “Anne of Green Gables” and “Alice in Wonderland,” all of which are in the public domain.
“The Secret Garden” was chosen from a poll on the library’s Facebook page. McCulloch has been reading a chapter each day, which can be as short as 10 minutes or as long as 40 minutes depending on the length of the chapter.
“It’s been one of the ways that I’m just trying to serve our public and our community in the best way that I can,” she said.
McCulloch is scheduled to finish “The Secret Garden” next Tuesday, and is planning to move onto another book in May if the closures continue or programming at the library is limited upon reopening.
For the Carlisle Police Department, reading to children is as much about community engagement as it is literacy.
Prior to the pandemic, members of the department visited area elementary and preschools about once a month to read to students.
“It was something many of us enjoyed,” Sgt. David Miller said.
The arrival of the coronavirus posed a challenge for Miller, who is responsible for finding ways for officers to engage with the community.
“There are a lot of people struggling in different ways because of everything that’s happening. I want them to see that the police department is still here and that we’re still here for them,” he said.
Carlisle police officers have been broadcasting a new story once a week, changing the day and time so they can hit different schedules for families to watch live. All broadcasts are listed as events on the police department’s Facebook page.
It’s been well-received on both sides of the camera. Officers are having fun reading the books, and people are tuning in. Miller said it’s common to have between 250 and 300 viewers when the department goes live with a story. A few of the readings have had closer to 1,000 viewers who watched live or watched it later.
People leave comments on Facebook and send notes to the officers to thank them for their work, Miller said.
“I actually wish we had the resources to do it even more often,” he said.
Activities like this are important to maintain engagement with the community and to let the community, particularly the children, know that inside the uniform officers are human and miss being able to interact with them in healthy ways, Miller said.
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