I know I speak for many when I say that one pain point of the pandemic is missing interactions with kids.
Prior to March, 2020, my Kids & Families core service team made monthly story time visits to preschools, Head Starts, and childcare classrooms. In previous summers, we brought our summer reading program to summer schools, school-aged enrichment programs, and camps. Needless to say, all of that was cancelled.
Pivot was the operative word, as we moved to virtual story times, online book clubs, and virtual Crafternoons. From there, more creative ideas developed to engage with kids.
Monthly virtual Pet Show & Tell launched during winter break, with staff-hosted 45-minute Zoom sessions: All About Dogs, Crazy for Cats, and Share Your Stuffies. Starting with a pet-themed story, kids then were invited to take turns sharing their pets, with guided questions such as:
• What does your pet like to do?
• What does your pet eat?
• Does your pet do any tricks?
• What do you love most about your pet?
Kids were hopping in anticipation of holding their pets (or stuffies) up to the camera (assuming the animal was willing!), articulating stories about their favorite activities, and sharing anecdotes about the value pets bring to their lives.
In February, all library staff were invited to pop onto Zoom and introduce their own pets. Kids saw a hedgehog, a snake, hermit crabs and several chickens. After these unique animals, a preschooler introduced his four-month old brother, who requires the same care, bathing and feeding as all of the other pets!
Special events are lined up for the next several months: a visit with a veterinarian (where kids will experience a dog getting a check-up), a tour of a local animal sanctuary, and a visit with a pair of rescue goats who live with one of our staff members.
The pleasure for me of witnessing this program is wide smiles on the faces of the team. Missing the goofy humor, earnest storytelling, and laughter with kids, Pet Show & Tell is an opportunity for them to rekindle the joy of that dialogue. Moreover, this program is not something that could have been achieved in person (aside from our ever-so-popular Stuffie Sleepovers).
What unique programs have you initiated or discovered for staff and kids to connect with each other?
Robyn Lupa is the Manager of Kids & Families for the Jefferson County Public Library (CO).