Promoting Early Literacy at Kingsbridge Library

By Stephanie Luciano

On Wednesday afternoons at the Kingsbridge Library, parents and caregivers park their strollers in the book stacks for Toddler Story time. The branch is home to many families who use its services to reinforce early literacy. Activities like “Toddler and Baby Storytime,” help children develop essential language skills.

Parents join the children and librarians in a circle to sing and dance for the first half hour, while the other half is spent sharing books. For those with younger children up to 18 months, “Baby Storytime” has parents and caregivers using finger puppets and silly wiggles.

“I have been attending the services at the library for both my sons,” said Emily Rodriguez, 24, who was singing along to The Wheels on The Bus. “They go to daycare, but I think they learn more here than over there.”

Many local branches of the New York Public Library (NYPL) offer an array of one-hour activities to support a child’s early development. “We want to move forward not backwards,” said library manager Martha Gonzalez Buitrago. “The children are our future.”

Programs at the branch are for newborns to children age 11. “Almost all branches have pre-K or early literacy corners,” said Gonzalez Buitrago. Early literacy programs have been very popular in the neighborhood. “It is successful, and it is flourishing. Attendance has increased all throughout, not just here,” she said.

Gonzalez Buitrago does outreach to daycare centers and schools in the neighborhood to promote library events. “Our campaign this year is Libraries make NYC stronger,” she says. “We have STEM programs and homework help.” Many of the programs are managed by library staff, but some use volunteers.

The seven-year-old Kingsbridge Library is located on West 231 Street in the Bronx. Gonzalez Buitrago says the branch gets many repeat customers and sometimes even patrons from Yonkers, which she says is a testimony to the appeal of the programs. “While I’m happy that they are coming here to the program, I’m sad for them that they have to travel so far because they don’t have the same resources.”

The library community has many working families. “A lot of them [children] come with their care providers, so it is very important to be consistent and that’s why we offer things on weekly basis,” says Gonzalez Buitrago. “Sometimes we are repetitive with the songs and figure plays.” Repetition is important in order to increase the level of participation during every session, she explains. Constantly switching the activities does not give the child the chance to learn an activity thoroughly. “We’ve received great feedback on it,” she says. “We know we are reaching the community when we see the space packed.”

Kingsbridge Library has a presence on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Tumblr. For those without an internet connection, Gonzalez Buitrago distributes flyers, calendars and other goodies to local businesses from Riverdale to Kingsbridge Heights. “Before the first of the month we go out and bring the next month calendar events so that they are aware of what is going on in the library,” she says.

The mission of the branch isn’t only to teach children but to also give parents a sense of confidence by using the tools and tips the library provides.

“We see familiar faces every day,” says Gonzalez Buitrago. “We been in the community for a long time, they know us and we know them.” Library card sign up is a goal throughout all NYPL branches. “We want the kids, and anyone, to have a library card to get the free resources. You don’t have to have a library card to attend an event but all our programs are tied together.”

This May, the Kingsbridge branch will explore space with the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum through Culture Pass, which allows patrons to explore New York City’s museums and attractions, with the simple sign up of a library card.

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