Imagine an area of the library where a three-year-old child can play and sing while building pre-reading skills.
The Shakopee Library is at the beginning of the process to obtain such an area. Recently, the library received a grant from the Minnesota Children’s Museum for a Smart Play Spot.
The Smart Play Spot is an environment tailored for early learners. It consists of interactive, multi-sensory activities that will help children gain pre-reading skills and encourage a joy for reading. The Minnesota Children's Museum plans to install Smart Play Spots in several locations throughout Minnesota.
“The project is geared toward children from birth to five,” said Barb Hegfors, Shakopee branch manager. “We hope to bring some additional early literacy learning options to the kids of Shakopee.”
Associate Librarian Kim Limberg said that she is excited for the project. She explained that for the past five years she has researched literacy-rich environments, which encourage such activities as singing, playing, and writing.
The puppet theater already at the library is an example of a program that promotes reading in young children, Limberg explained.
“We have a puppet theater here now,” said Limberg, “and it’s amazing to see kids tell their own stories… and interact and connect words with meaning.” She added, “It’s an incredible step in reading.”
This early in the process the specifics of what the Smart Play Spot will look like at the Shakopee Library has not yet been determined.
In general Limberg explained, “There will be activity centers so they [children] can play with items, and there will be signage that goes with that so parents can help.”
Parents are very much involved in the process of helping children gain reading skills through play. For example, Limberg suggested, if the area included a stationary car, a child could climb in and see signs and symbols for "go" and "stop." A parent would help that child play the game.
The hope, Limberg said, is for the Smart Play Spot to be ready by the start of the library’s summer reading program in June.
Funding for the grant comes from Minnesota’s Legacy Amendment. The library must also contribute matching community funds totaling $20,000.
“We’re excited. We got the grant and now we need to fundraise for $20,000,” said Limberg.
Currently, those interested in donating to the project can leave donations in a box at the circulation desk.
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