In a world where youth are smitten with Smartphones and transfixed by transformer robots, books – even reading – can be a tough sell.
That’s why Yolanda Botello, youth services librarian at the Mansfield Public Library and mother of a 3-year-old who taught her how to play Angry Birds, has spent her five months on the job thinking up new ways to snag the interest of future avid readers.
On Thursday, she will dim the lights in the library community room as she rolls out the newest reading program, Bedtime Stories, which invites youngsters – accompanied by parents or guardians – to come dressed in pajamas and security blankets to hear two softly read stories.
The purpose is to re-create the comforting pre-sleep environment of home when parents often read to their children.
“It’s about winding down the kids’ day,” Botello said. Unlike other Story Times, she won’t be using picture books to get kids to interact. “This is more something they can get relaxed to adjust to listening.”
The idea came not from another library, but from a PBS children’s program called The Good Night Show, which used puppets, yoga exercises and other activities aimed at helping youthful viewers to settle in for the evening. Steve Standefer, the library director, told her about it.
“We live in a really hectic world, and it’s good to have something that will unwind everybody, calm them down,” Standefer said. “If we can connect reading and library services to that, then that’s what we should do.”
Standefer, who said he’s looking into providing more children’s programming in the evenings and on weekends, told Botello that his grandson had seen the show and that “maybe it was something to look into,” Botello said. “I looked at it and said, ‘yes I can do that.’”
The half-hour Bedtime Stories are scheduled for 6:30 p.m. on the first and third Thursdays of each month, the only Story Time not at 10:30 a.m. The program says its intended for children 3 to 7 years old, but Botello is not a stickler on the subject. “If they’re young, older, they’re welcome to come,” she said.
Dorothy McGuinness, an administrative assistant at the library, said she plans to bring her 3-year-old granddaughter Avery to Bedtime Stories, even though the youngster needs no encouragement to learn to read.
“I know she loves stories,” McGuinness said. “You go visit her and she will hand you a board book. Everyone is supposed to be reading. Even though she can’t read yet, if there is a bunny or a flower on the page she’s telling me her own story about that bunny. And she would keep the story going as the pages turn.”
McGuinness said she expects the program to be popular, especially among working parents.
“It will give them an opportunity to come in for a program that they can’t take part in during the day,” McGuinness said. “And for the grandparent, we get to spend a little extra time with our grandchildren.”
The library has three other children’s reading programs and will debut its fifth on Friday, Baby Story Time. The half-hour program at 10:30 a.m. Friday -- (how many times a month hasn’t been determined yet) will go after its youngest demographic so far – newborns to 18-month-old children – to introduce them to reading via osmosis.
“It connects them to the library,” Stander said. “It encourages parents to bring up their children with the library as a part of their lives.”