Family Place is a
concept that expands the traditional role of public libraries into community
centers for early childhood information, parent education, socialization,
emergent literacy, and family support. Although most public libraries
serve children through story times and summer reading programs, they usually
focus on “children” only and not the child as part of the family unit.
Parents/caregivers are a child’s first teachers; through this program we can
support these adults.
The keystones of Family
Place are the Parent/Child Workshop, specially designed space, collections, and
trained staff. A five-week series brings together toddlers and their
parents (babies are welcome, too) in an informal, interactive setting with
professionals from local agencies such as child care centers, hospitals, speech
clinics, county extension agencies, universities, public schools and health
departments. The area used for these hour and a half sessions is filled
with educational toys, developmentally appropriate activities, books, magazines
and AV materials. The sessions are facilitated by trained library staff
who greet families, introduce guests from the community and end the sessions
with a simple circle game, song, or finger play. The staff’s other
role is to get to know the families and promote the library’s resources.
The term “specially
designed space” sounds intimidating, but it isn’t. It is all about creating an
early childhood area that makes the library a “destination” for families with
young children in your community. It doesn’t mean you need an addition, or have
to turn a meeting room into a space only for young families. It does mean
you need comfortable furniture for adults in the children’s area and that there
is a space, however small devoted to families/caregivers and young
children. In a small library it may just be a corner of a room.
Family Place libraries around the country have been creative and set up fun
items of interest to very young children in this space such as an aquarium, a
dollhouse, a Duplo table, puzzles, a puppet stage, a wooden train table,
etc. Many participating libraries also offer a computer loaded with early
are of major importance to the program. A good selection of board books, cloth
books, picture books, audio tapes, CDs, and videos for young children is needed
as is an up-to-date parent/teacher collection that includes books, magazines,
audio tapes, videos, pamphlets and possibly access to electronic resources in
the family space to support the adults who live and work with young children.
Last, but most
important, are the staff members that have been trained at the Middle Country
Library in New York and who will train the rest of the staff on how to better
serve the needs of families. The training includes learning how to better
network with the education, social services, and health service providers in
your community. Outreach is another important part of the program.
Staff will visit appropriate agencies to help recruit families into the