Library center offers more than books Kids can borrow puppets and toys

January 17, 1993|By Sherrie Ruhl | Sherrie Ruhl,Staff Writer

Kimberley, searches through the racks of fabric puppets, pulling out a deep-blue dragon with shiny wings and slipping it over her tiny hand.

"Hello, what's your name?" Kimberley, 3 years old, asks in a squeaky voice, opening and shutting the dragon's mouth.

Her brother, Brian, 4, sits on the carpeted floor with a bag of wooden vegetables, "slicing" mushrooms and carrots at their Velcro-joints, then reattaching the parts.

Sue Roberts, their mother, watches with delight.

Not only are her children having fun, they're also developing skills that will help them become good readers.

"The library is the first place they want to go. We borrow puppets, toys and books at least once a week," says Mrs. Roberts.

It's Saturday morning in the basement of the Harford County library's Bel Air branch, and the Learning and Sharing Center, where learning masquerades as just plain fun, bustles once more.

The center helps thousands of young children develop reading skills each year, says Frances V. Sedney, the library's coordinator of children's services. Mrs. Sedney started the center in 1975 with money from a federal grant.

In November, the most recent month for which numbers are available, the center lent 6,799 items -- books, filmstrips, posters and educational toys such as construction sets, puzzles and puppets. In the last two years, the center has grown from 3,200 items to 8,000.

"One of the tenets of the program is that children like to hear a story over and over again," Mrs. Sedney says. "We have 30 to 40 copies of many books, and that means a teacher can borrow a book for each student in her class."

Many materials, including books, can be borrowed for three weeks,she says. The center's free services are available to parents, teachers and day-care providers.

The center also combines related materials on a subject -- a book about grasshoppers, for example, with a grasshopper puppet, filmstrips on grasshoppers and perhaps posters.

Sharon Brugerman, a kindergarten teacher at Magnolia Elementary in Joppa, stopped by to borrow three copies of "The Mitten," by Alvin Tresselt. The story, based on a folk tale, focuses on woodland animals who take turns living in a little boy's lost mitten.

Mrs. Brugerman said the books fit in well with lesson plans about winter and what animals do during cold weather. The children will take turns acting out different animals.

"I brought in a sleeping bag, which we will pretend is the mitten," Mrs. Brugerman explained.

Mrs. Brugerman said she planned to make a recording when she read the book to the children. Then three of them could listen to it on separate headphones and follow along.

The center also has trained volunteer storytellers who will visit day-care centers with books and puppets and other teaching aids, said Lynne Degen, center director.

Day-care centers borrow materials from the center regularly, she said.

Jane Brooks, who teaches her two sons at home, filled a large cardboard box with books, puzzles and toys.

"This is an excellent service because you can borrow things you need instead of buying them," said Mrs. Brooks, a former teacher. "There are lots of things you only need for a short while, and you can borrow them here without buying them."

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