Springfield-Greene County Library District looks to promote summer reading

The Springfield-Greene County Library District kicks off summer reading programs and opens new Play & Learn Center at the Library Station
Updated: Jun. 13, 2021 at 10:46 AM CDT
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SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (KY3) - Expanding the way kids can learn, the library station on North Kansas Expressway has a new interactive Play and Learn Center inside.

The new center opened to the public Monday, June 7 after being delayed due to the pandemic.

A news release from the Springfield-Greene County Library District explained that the center was funded with a $108,000 gift to the Library Foundation from The Stanley & Elaine Ball Foundation, which is managed by Central Trust Company. The Library Foundation was one of only 15 area, nonprofit recipients of the grants in 2019. Organizations were chosen based on their ability to enhance educational opportunities and/or provide support for disadvantaged children.

The Play and Learn Center incorporates durable and interactive furnishings, installations, and toys paired with the library’s children’s collection and programs. The area emphasizes the significant role of play while promoting interaction and movement. All the individual toys and the overall themes were chosen specifically to encourage early literacy skills, social-emotional development, and family engagement.

The play and learn center:

  • The Imagination Station. This is a large, flexible play space that can be whatever a child imagines. This heavy, wooden structure can be turned into different play themes that include signage and special toys. The six themes will be switched out periodically: Theater with puppets for pretend play; food truck with food, pots and pans and dishes; Vet Clinic with animals, medical equipment and X-rays; farmer’s market with produce and gardening supplies; and hardware store with tools and building items. More themes can be added later.
  • The Everbright. This interactive art station has the appeal of a giant Lite-Brite, but without the removable parts. The illuminated dials twist to allow kids of all ages to explore colors, patterns and geometry. This device encourages creativity, problem-solving and thinking skills with a blend of technology and hands-on learning. The Everbright comes pre-programmed with a series of challenges and a tablet that allows us to customize challenges and activities. Babies through big kids (and even adults) are drawn to this bright installation.
  • The Tot Spot. Babies and young toddlers need soft, comfortable spaces to lie down, crawl, pull up, and cruise. The new baby area has attractive benches with places for all of these things along with interactive play panels to explore. There are two comfortable chairs set for caregivers to relax and share stories with their little ones.
  • The Tire. Long-time visitors to the Library Station may remember the large tire in the children’s department. The original tire eventually wore out, and the design company Kidzibits recreated this piece. Now babies can pull themselves up and cruise around the edges, caregivers can sit and children can recline on top and play with toys or read.

Stephanie Smallwood, youth services coordinator, said the library station is taking precautions to ensure kids and families are safe while utilizing the new play and learn center.

“The way that we designed the space, kind of allows kids to spread out, instead of gathering together,“ Smallwood explained. “That was something we really thought about a lot. We didn’t just want one spot that was cool. We wanted a lot of cool things so that kids would naturally, expand, and we’re doing of course cleaning as necessary and as needed to make sure that everyone is as safe as they can possibly be.”

Masks are not required inside the library but they are encouraged for anyone not vaccinated. The Play and Learn area is open for families to enjoy for FREE, Monday-Saturday at the library station.

Springfield-Greene County Library District FREE summer reading programs:

Although we’re a couple of weeks away from the official start of summer, The Springfield -Greene County Library District has already started its free summer reading programs created for all ages, from babies to adults.

Smallwood said the library couldn’t have all of its performers and programs like usual this year because of safety concerns. However, she said they’ve stepped up, and instead, they’re doing library takeout at all locations, with many of its sites having special kits and storytime kits for the little ones.

This year, there are youth game boards that families can either pick up for their kids at the library or register online.

Smallwood says its summer programs are designed to make sure kids keep reading throughout the summer because that’s something that many school districts look at, and this is a way to participate in an informal, fun way.

“Our summer reading always promotes reading for enjoyment, which makes a big difference for kids of all ages; that’s how we develop print motivation,” Smallwood explained. “That’s how we develop strong readers, even though adults, as we’re always encouraging kids, teens, families adults to always read for enjoyment and that’s what our summer reading programs focus on.”

Smallwood said the programs are fun and easy, and there are great opportunities for kids to earn a free book. Also as they finish the summer program and keep reading, they’ll be entered into drawings to win some cool prizes.

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