In recent years, libraries have led the way modelling early literacy and learning behaviors for adults to share with the children in their lives. But the intergenerational fun shouldn’t stop after preschool. With programs that families can enjoy together, libraries encourage shared learning by school-age children, and their younger sibling, and their older siblings, and their grandparents, and their aunts and uncles, and their friends . . . .
Intergenerational programming allows kids to take the lead with their adults–ever seen a second-grader walk Grandpa through the intricacies of a squishy circuit?–and may introduce new audiences to your library’s events. And on the logistical side, they can accommodate slightly more labor-intensive or sophisticated activities, because everyone brings their own adult!
Family Science Fun
Especially suited to open-ended projects or multiple stations of individual activities, Family Science Night encourages joint exploration. At my library we’ve played around with the aforementioned squishy circuits, constructed shapes and sculptures with Strawbees, experimented with elephant toothpaste (and other quasi-explosions), and assembled solar-powered trains. We run these programs for a couple hours and allow families to drop in and stay as long as they’re still having science-y fun. Add a couple of laptops or iPads with some relevant websites pulled up and curious adults and their even curiouser kids can research answers to each other’s questions about the science involved.
I hope it won’t distress anyone to learn that we at the Chappaqua Library like to tear books apart. I mean, just one book at a time and for a very good cause. Disassemble a picture book, laminate the pages and plant the spreads along a path for readers to enjoy. If you have access to local parks or outdoor space around your library, consider an outside storywalk; if you’re limited to your indoor space, you can make a game (or program!) out of finding appropriate crannies to stash your next installment. After the last page, post a few questions to encourage discussion among readers of all ages.
A Whole Song and Dance
Kids love nothing more than making noise–possibly even a ruckus–inside the library. This summer
, we’re inviting our patrons of every generation to join us at two musical events, a community sing-along and a barn dance. Earlier this year, after hosting a successful song-writing program for kids, the children’s room staff expanded our scope to bring back the performer to lead an all-ages sing-along, which featured a faux-campfire and at least three generations in harmony. Next month, we’re building on another previous success: a barn dance lead by musicians who can teach and call dances. Last year, we invited the Walker Family Band to play and facilitate a dance for library families. When everyone else in the building–teens, senior citizens, the circulation staff, you get the idea–decided they wanted to dance too, we approached the adult program coordinator and the YA librarian and got them on board for this year–with a potluck dinner to start.
So, everyone, grab your grandmothers and head into the library to learn together.
Robbin Ellis Friedman is a Children’s Librarian at the Chappaqua Library in Chappaqua, NY, and chair of the ALSC School Age Programs and Service Committee. Feel free to write her at email@example.com.