Parents, children can play and learn together
By Angie Landsverk
The Waupaca Area Public Library has a new interactive play wall designed to encourage parents to talk, play, sing, read and write with their children.
“We’re encouraging families to play and enjoy it together and talk about the things that are on the wall,” said Children’s Librarian Sue Abrahamson. “It levels the playing field for all families. We don’t have a children’s museum nearby. It’s a way to engage them.”
The play wall is located in the Children’s Department and features interchangeable activities for families.
The piece arrived on July 14 and was installed the following day.
Families will find it near the tree Ellen Davis, owner of Dragonwings Bookstore, donated to the library in May 2014.
After Davis donated the tree to the library, a mural was painted on the upper portion of the nearby walls, Abrahamson said.
“I thought this wall looked very plain. It had some toys in front of it,” she said of the space where the play wall was recently added. “I had seen this at other libraries and thought they were pretty awesome.”
A total of $9,600 in donations from the Bob Bootz Memorial, Grant Sorensen (in memory of his wife Verdell), the Waupaca Breakfast Rotary Club, Waupaca Preschool, Friends of the Waupaca Library and Waupaca Library Foundation made the project a reality in Waupaca.
“When Waupaca Preschool closed, part of its charter was if any funds were left, it would be split among different groups, including the library. We got over $1,000 from them,” Abrahamson said.
The local Rotary Club donated funds as part of its education efforts.
Abrahamson said the memorial funds from the Bootz and Sorensen families were particularly special as both Bob and Verdell were supporters of education and reading.
The designs in the play wall are related to the six early literacy skills identified by literacy experts and adapted by educators.
Those skills are developing vocabulary, print precognition, print awareness, narrative adeptness, letter knowledge and phonological awareness, Abrahamson said.
The initiative for early learning developed by the American Library Services to Children summarized those skills into five activities meant to be easy for parents to remember. They are talk, play, sing, read and write.
“We want to focus on the basic early literacy skills,” she said. “It helps parents play with their kids. If they come in to play and engage, it helps them discover language.”
With other libraries in the state also having interactive play walls, Abrahamson knows of some interested in exchanging the interactives.
“They are all the same size and interchangeable,” she said.
The library also wants to use this area as a kickoff to a new local initiative aimed at placing “Babies Need Words” posters at public diaper changing stations in the community.
“To be successful in school, children need to be exposed to three million words by age 4,” Abrahamson said. “The library can provide equal access for families with young children through play areas, technology, programs and basic library services.”
She said the library is looking for businesses willing to put a laminated poster by their diaper changing station.
“We’re trying to use the community to help spread the word about early literacy,” Abrahamson said.
She said playing is how children learn.
Playing in a space like the new one the library has helps them use their imagination to solve problems and learn to work with others while also preparing them to learn and read, she said.
“Parents are their children’s first teacher. If they can play with them and expose them to the rhymes and words they need to be successful in school, that’s what it’s all about,” Abrahamson said.