In the almost 290 years since Benjamin Franklin founded the Library Company of Philadelphia, America’s first lending library and the predecessor of the free public library, libraries have evolved into much more than “books,” and summer is the perfect time to unplug and become reacquainted with your library’s children and teen programs.
At the Edith Wheeler Memorial Library in Monroe, for example, the children’s department offers storytimes, crafts, reading with a therapy dog, film programs, and special performances. The teen department regularly hosts a Minecraft meet-up and a teen dinner and a movie program.
Michelle Turbak, children’s services librarian, explains, “Our mission is to enrich lives, foster success and build community by bringing people, information, and ideas together in a welcoming environment.”
Elise Barlow, youth services coordinator for the Trumbull Library, agrees: “Library programs bring community members together. They’re an opportunity to learn, to socialize and to have fun.” The Trumbull Library offers programming for children age 6 months through teens. In addition to story times and crafts, the library hosts a music and movement class for 1- to 4-year-olds; Little Scientists, a hands-on S.T.E.A.M. program for 3 to 5-year-olds, and a craft night. The library also hosts family book clubs for grades 1 to 3, grades 4 to 6, and grade 6+. A book discussion group for high school students is planned for the fall.
At the New Canaan Library, programs engage children from birth through high school. Storytimes, preschool crafts, author visits, art/music, live animal encounters, S.T.E.A.M., robotics/coding classes, cooking, and writing groups are all offered.
Cheryl Capitani, manager of services to families, explains, “Our mission at the New Canaan Library is to inspire lifelong learning through innovation and discovery. Our programs foster that curious spirit in our youngest members and encourage them to try new things, explore their creativity, and learn more about the world around them in a safe and welcoming environment.”
From toddler times to teen anime clubs and live animals to arts and crafts, there’s something for everyone at the Milford Public Library. “Our programming has to fit into our families’ busy schedules, so many of our events are part of a dependable rotation,” Suzanne Thomas, children’s librarian, states. “Library programming is a terrific way for children, teens and families to share new experiences and, bonus, it’s all free!”
The Darien Library offers programs from birth to 18. With storytimes for pre-walkers and toddlers, art classes for preschoolers and craft programs for all ages, S.T.E.M. and S.T.E.A.M. programs (grades 3-6), there’s something to engage both child and family.
“Our mission is to provide education, entertainment, enrichment and community building through compassionate service to all,” says Elisabeth Gattullo Marrocolla, head of children and teen services at the Darien Library.
The library’s teen lounge is also active hosting coding programs and Babysitting 101 classes, which include CPR certification. “Library programs are a free way for families and children to get involved in their community, learn new skills and explore their passions in a low-risk, high-reward environment,” Marrocolla adds.
Ridgefield Library offers programming for children, teens, and parents with newborns and toddlers-preschoolers focusing on early literacy, gross and fine motor development, music and imaginative play.
Additionally, its recurring programs, Lego Challenge and Family Game Day, are designed for elementary school-aged patrons. Other programs focus on aspects of S.T.E.A.M. which include MakerBot Cookie Cutter Workshop, Sew with Me, Fort Building, Origami Challenge, Domino Effect, and Mobile Moveable Art Workshop.
The tweens and teen programs at Ridgefield Library engage residents in the culture of their community with programs that include Lego Robotics (grades 4 to 12), Potterheads Book Club (grades 4 to 7), Girls Who Code, Performance Poetry, and We Got Games.
“Our programs have the ability to be flexible and responsive to community needs and interests,” explains Kristina Lareau, head of children’s services at Ridgefield Library. “We enrich minds and enhance community by offering educational, culturally relevant programs that engage people of all demographics.”
Susan Lauricella, teen services and makerspace manager for the Wilton Library Association, shares, “There’s a lot of interest in S.T.E.M. related activities, so we try to develop programs which cater to that. We have a robotics team, are part of the national Girls Who Code club, and created a S.T.E.M. club for middle school students. We also offer educational/instructional workshops, such as Red Cross babysitting training and several college-related programs.”
During the summer, teen programs include rocketry, veggie stamped t-shirts, Crime Lab, telescope building, lighting up a t-shirt with LEDs, and making a terrarium. “We provide a variety of offerings so there’s bound to be a little something for everyone!” Lauricella adds.
The children’s programming at Wilton Library includes storytimes and music programs for children birth to 5 years as well as robust S.T.E.A.M. programming for school-age children. In addition to these core classes, a Lego Club, a garden club and many entertainment/enrichment programs are offered.
The Stratford Library strives to engage babies, toddlers, and young readers alike. Its popular 1,000 Books Before Kindergarten Program is designed for preschool children. Materials are provided and children who complete the program receive a free book. The children’s department also offers coding, sewing, LEGOs, Crazy 8s Math, and Science in Action.
For its tweens-teens programs, the library relies on input from the kids themselves. Beth Grimes, head of teen services, says, “They tell us what programs they’d like to see and then we help put those ideas into action. Almost all of our programs started because a teen talked to a teen staff member and said, ‘I would love to do a program about …’” Programs include an Anime Club, uCreate: Video Game Club, Teen Movie Afternoon, First Look Book Club, Teen Aspiring Writers’ Club, and Post-It Pixel Art.