Parents of young children are finding it even more difficult these days to drag their kids away from the Jackson County Public Library.
In addition to lots of books, train and block tables, puzzles, puppets and the popular life-sized tree, the children’s department at the Seymour Library has recently launched several new Discovery Centers to encourage kids to learn, explore and interact through play.
The centers were purchased late last year through a $2,238 grant from the Community Foundation of Jackson County and debuted earlier this month, much to the excitement and enthusiasm of the library’s littlest patrons and their families.
Lola Snyder, head of youth services, applied for the money with the vision of providing young children with opportunities to gain valuable life skills and experiences while having fun.
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“The best reaction is when a child hasn’t been in since December, and you see their eyes get big and their jaws drop,” she said. “We have a had a lot of comments from parents that kids don’t want to leave.”
The centers include a light table to engage children’s senses and a home center with a play kitchen, food and dishes and a grocery store with a cash register and play money.
There’s also a Create it Station that will change from month to month, allowing kids to use their imaginations to run a toy store, a post office or a pizzeria and be doctors, veterinarians and teachers.
Another feature is a magnetic wall where kids can play and learn with a variety of magnets, including letters, numbers, shapes, gears and animals.
Snyder also was able to use some of the grant money to purchase new items for the train and block tables, such as a city center, Legos and Tinker Toys.
“I hear once a month from someone that comes in from out of town that says this is the best children’s department they’ve ever seen,” she said. “That makes me really happy because we’re not the biggest or most well-known library, but what we offer is absolutely amazing for early literacy.”
And play is critical in developing early language and literacy skills, she added.
“It encourages healthy brain development while fostering curiosity, language skills, social skills, physical development and imagination,” she said. “The way young children learn is through play and experience. It’s their job to collaborate with each other, to share, to problem solve, to learn spatial skills by playing.
“If you try to sit them down and teach them those skills, they aren’t going to learn it,” she added. “That is why it is so important to have play because when you start teaching actual reading and writing and math, those pathways in the brain have already been made, and the connections are already there, and it’s a lot easier.”
Dramatic play, when children use their imaginations to act or play pretend, emphasizes oral language and is particularly beneficial for early literacy development and is a precursor to success in school, Snyder said.
“The purpose of these centers is for discovery, purposeful play and opportunities for kids to socialize and interact with others,” she said. “This is early literacy at its best.”
To make room for the Discovery Centers, staff moved several computer stations to another area of the department.
“We’ve noticed that even when the older kids get done using the computers, they venture over to play with the younger kids,” she said. “It’s great see different ages playing together.”
Bonnye Good of Seymour said she always has loved visiting the library and brings her sons often for programs and to check out materials. Now, her youngest son, George, 4, never wants to leave.
He recently spent the afternoon there playing with other children. He played so much, Good said he came home afterwards and took a nap.
“I love seeing how so many of the kids work together between the store and the kitchen,” Good said. “They seem to have a really great time.”
Barbara Castetter of Seymour said her 2-year-old daughter has a blast playing at the library, whether she’s pretending to shop at the grocery store or serving up dinner in the kitchen.
“She loves the new centers and storytime,” Castetter said.
Since her daughter is at an age where it’s hard for her to sit still, the centers are perfect because they are hands-on and foster interaction, she said.
“I would like to see even more hands-on activities and classes for younger kids,” she said.
Snyder said she hopes to be able to purchase more centers and supplies in the future through grant money or through funding from the Friends of the Library group.
The Seymour Library isn’t the only one to benefit from the grant, as some of the money also was used to purchase centers for the Medora and Crothersville library branches.
Dan Davis, president and CEO of the Community Foundation of Jackson County, said the grant was established through SIHO Insurance Services, Irwin Union Bank and Trust Co. and the foundation to meet community needs within Jackson County.
The library is one of many entities in the community to receive grant funding from the foundation.
“We are excited that the learning and discovery stations at the library are enriching the lives of so many children and their families,” Davis said. “This is a great example of how unrestricted giving to endowed funds at the foundation continues to reap benefits for the community year after year through our fall grants and other grant programs.”
Additionally, the Jackson County Public Library benefits annually through earnings from a designated agency fund administered by the foundation. Donations to the Jackson County Public Library Fund are tax-deductible and earn annual grant dollars paid automatically to the library.
For information about donating to the library fund through the Community Foundation of Jackson County, call 812-523-4483 or you can donate via PayPal through the foundation’s website, cfjacksoncounty.org.
For more information about the Discovery Centers or any of the other programs and events offered at the Jackson County Public Library, follow the library on Facebook, visit myjclibrary.org or call 812-522-3412 option 2 in Seymour, 812-793-2927 in Crothersville or 812-966-2278 in Medora.
Children and their families are invited to check out the new Discovery Centers and everything else the library has to offer during an event Feb. 6.
The library will celebrate Take Your Child to the Library Day with Family Storytime at 9:30 a.m., Saturday Morning Movies at 11 a.m. and Weekend Builders at 2 p.m.