Brenda Hadel and her 3- and 5-year-old sons spent a warm evening last week not playing outside, but sitting in a meeting room in North Point Library -- learning how to improve the way they read together.
"It is great the library is trying to help families with preschool children," Hadel said. "Usually, it seems like they don't do a lot until children are in kindergarten. This is a good way to do it."
The "Pre-school Night at the Library" -- held Wednesday -- began an effort by the North Point Library to reach out to Dundalk's child care centers, encouraging families with young children to think about using Baltimore County's library system at an earlier age.
"The research shows that the more children are read to at an earlier age, the more successful readers they will be later on," said Jennifer Haire, director of North Point Library. "So we decided to try to bring families of local preschools in to show them around the library and give them new ideas on how to read together."
The two-hour program -- which attracted about 100 parents and children from the Dundalk Community College Children's Center and the Creative Learning and Child Care Center in Dundalk -- is likely to be repeated at North Point with other area preschools. Library officials also are considering replicating it at other county library branches.
After a dinner of pizza and juice, parents and children were separated. While the children enjoyed a magic show in one corner of the library, their parents were taken on a tour that ranged from how to check out books to the extensive computer resources.
Emphasis was placed on the areas for children to find books to read -- including cardboard books for beginning readers, which "we expect might be flung across the room occasionally," Haire said.
The tour was followed by a demonstration for parents on how to read to their children.
Bonnie Rowe, who works at the Creative Learning Center, and North Point librarian Karen Benson read books to the four dozen children, while the parents looked on and took notes on the successful reading strategies being employed.
After each book was read, the parents noted the ways that the reader had kept the children interested -- using an expressive voice, connecting the story to real life, asking questions.
"When we read, we get to put on a performance every time," Rowe said. "It's our chance to be actresses."
For the preschool parents, the tips on reading and the library tour proved helpful -- even for the majority who said they read regularly with their children.
"You can never learn too many ways to read to your kids," said Dan Webster, whose son, Joey, 4, attends the college's child care program. "I think I need to be more expressive with the stories when we read together -- not just to read them but kind of act them out."
Pub Date: 5/24/98