It is important that expectant parents and those with newborns know they are welcome at the library, even as pandemic precautions persist. Luckily, there is someone there to help them – YOU! Acknowledging them with a simple “hello” can be a high point of their day, especially if they are feeling overwhelmed. A sympathetic “some days are like that!” may lower the pressure when they are dealing with a fussy child.
Life in the library is beginning to look more familiar as things begin to “open up more.”. There are still precautions to take to make sure everyone stays safe and healthy until this pandemic is over. Keeping this is mind may have an impact on your library’s ability to do in-person programming and outreach for families with infants since they are at a higher risk. Programs may be offered as a series, once a month or quarterly. Keep your workload in mind when scheduling. The following are just a few suggestions to get you thinking about possible ways of serving this community.
SERVICES & OUTREACH:
- Book lists – a special one for expectant parents with suggestions of rhyming books, sing along books, quality board books, music on cds or streaming, or stories to share with new big brother or sister. Book lists that cover topics of interest for expectant parents: breastfeeding (see ALSC Blog from July 31, 2021), childhood development, parenting skills, etc.
- A list of daycares in your area, especially those that accept infants. Make sure it is clearly labeled they are not vetted by the library. This list can also include local resources that are available in your area (ie. Parks & Rec., parenting support groups, etc.). Materials could be stored in a binder left on the information desk. They can also be made available online on your library website.
- Connect with pediatricians in your area to place library information at their sites. It could be as simple as a monthly calendar of things to do with their very young child, a DVD on the importance of story time/Early literacy, or sample story times.
- Local hospitals, clinics or activity centers may also have a location for library handouts. These could include a brochure or a poster on the importance of reading to very young children, tips to incorporate early literacy/learning in everyday activities, or an invitation to visit the library. They might even have a new parent class where you could extend an invitation to the participants to visit the library and perhaps share a story with them as well!
- Baby Storytime – a simple storytime for families with children up to 18 months. The librarian is a role model, demonstrating how to share stories with very young children using stories, simple songs & finger rhymes. Make sure COVID rules, if applicable, are followed. Mark off areas for each family group with social distance in mind. Invite expectant parents to attend one so they can see what your program is all about. Remember to let them know it’s a great way to meet other new parents. Play groups often develop from participants!
- Baby Shower – for expectant parents and their support people such as grandparents. The program outline can be based on ALSC’s Every Child Ready to Read II interspersed throughout with examples of stories, songs, and rhymes. Include conversation starters that will encourage participants to share their own ideas & thoughts. Tip: offer a “gift bag” of things such as an egg shaker or small bag of homemade playdough, a booklist for babies, or another token your library has. Don’t forget the library card application form! Offer a tour of the library highlighting the children’s area and parenting section. Don’t forget important spots like changing tables in restrooms and seating available for those feeding little ones.
- Music Time – a program using a variety of music to promote interaction between adult and child (yes, even in the womb). Examples: creative movement music to introduce different rhythms, music to exercise to, music to sooth a fussy child, or background music for reading stories to. Practice those activities during the program if possible. Music and rhythm are also great ways to introduce babies to language learning. It also encourages adults to talk/sing with their child before little ones can vocalize.
These are simply ideas to start with. Where will your ideas lead you?
Linda Ernst is a member of the ALSC Early Childhood Programs & Services Committee. She is also the author of Baby Rhyming Time and Essential Lapsit Guide. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.