CALIPATRIA — Small children grasped their mothers’ hands as they walked to Calipatria’s Imperial County Library in anticipation of a fun and educational evening April 6 at a ribbon cutting to inaugurate the Family Place Library program.
Planned and hosted by Imperial County librarian Crystal Duran, the event was a way to introduce local children and their parents to the benefits of a public library and the Family Place program.
Family Place Libraries is a network of nationwide children’s libraries emphasizing that literacy begins at birth, and that libraries can help build healthy communities by nourishing healthy families. The Family Place Libraries network currently includes more than 400 sites in 27 states and continues to grow.
Uncharacteristically, the library was filled with laughing, crying and shouting as the young children played computer games, read books out loud, engaged in educational games, and explored the facilities.
Expanding the traditional role of children’s services, Family Place builds on the knowledge that good health, early learning, parental involvement and supportive communities play a critical role in young children’s growth and development.
Family Place Libraries redesigned the library environment to be welcoming and appropriate for children beginning at birth. It is geared to connect parents with the resources programs and services offered at the library and other family service agencies and reach out to non-traditional library users. They strive to create an environment families need to nurture their children’s development during the critical first years of life and helps ensure all children enter school ready and able to learn.
“Family Place Libraries are more family-friendly,” said Duran. “We will have workshops so families can come with their children and let them play educational games, learn to socialize, and learn to take turns. We put more bookshelves on the ground level and stocked the room with toys.”
The workshops will feature a child welfare expert that either helps with nutrition, socializing, or literacy. Duran used a family with a picky eater as an example.
“The nutritionist has seen this before and has a bag full of ideas to change eating habits and to make meals not only more nutritious, but tasty,” Duran explained.
The funding is provided by First Five Imperial, an autonomous local agency that serves each county of California and was funded in 1998 by Proposition 10, the Tobacco Tax that skims 50 cents off all tobacco, and tobacco products, including electronic cigarettes. Imperial County receives $2.2 million annually.
First Five Imperial funds 17 projects in the Valley. Twelve are major, non-profits that serve families with children between zero and five years, and can receive up to $250,000, with the funding running for two years. Five projects are mini, and grants go up to $25,000, and only last one year.
Fernando Valenzuela, project compliance coordinator of First Five Imperial, mentioned the Brawley LAMBS Literacy bus as one of the recipients of a major grant. The library bus travels to Valley areas without any libraries and offers free books, story time at preschools and day care centers, and is a resource for teachers in the same locations.
“Children learn to communicate with each other and they learn to take turns,” said Duran as she surveyed the busy room of children focusing on learning the play stations. “We support play, because play is the foundation for early literacy and for learning.”
Eventually, the big moment arrived when all the children were given beginners’ scissors along with their parents receiving working scissors, to cut the ribbon that led to the additional room filled with games, couches, and other family-friendly tools for the children to have a safe, fun, loud, and learning experience at their local library.