Gloversville library opens new center focused on youngest patrons 


Jack Larson, 1 ½, at the Early Literacy Center at the Gloversville Public Library on Tuesday.

For Jack Larson, a 1-and-a-half-year-old Northville resident, the books on the shelves are mere backdrops. At the moment, he’s having a ball throwing foam blocks of various colors and shapes. Purple pyramids. Yellow cylinders. Orange cubes. 

It doesn’t matter that this is a library and he’s not reading. Part of the point of the Gloversville Public Library’s Early Literacy Center, which celebrated its official opening on Tuesday, is to engage the youngest library patrons in ways that will help them connect with the library from the beginning of their lives. It marks the first time the library has had a designated space geared toward kids ages 0-5, and it will host programming specifically for children 0-2, which is the first time the library has targeted that age group.  

“Literacy is more than just about reading books,” said Valerie Acklin, the library’s director. “It’s so important to have parents read to their children, to have kids read to themselves even if they are preliterate. It is absolutely important. But so are the other skills that go along with reading.”

That’s why — in addition to books — offerings at the Early Literacy Center include developmental appropriate toys like floor puzzles, stacking rings, and shape sorting games to help toddlers and preschoolers practice skills like fine-motor, socialization and communication. 

The Early Literacy Center takes over a space that had been an underutilized media lab for teens, Acklin said. The 1904 library itself reopened in 2018 following a $9 million renovation. To create the literacy center, library staff and volunteers rearranged furniture and bookshelves, brought in the big, colorful chair used for Story Time readings by Youth Services leader Darla Barry, made available computers with age-appropriate learning programs for young children, and stocked one wall of shelves with toys. Toys and other supplies were made possible thanks to a $500 donation by the Friends of the Gloversville Public Library. 

“[The center] is a great thing to add because, for children of that age, there are not that many places where parents can bring their kids where it is safe, well-supplied and very full of things that are fun,” said Jean La Porta, president of the Friends of the Gloversville Public Library. “It’s developmentally and socially important for kids of that age to have a place where they can interact with children who are the same age as they are.”

Parents like Sara Larson, Jack’s mom, welcome the addition. Larson, of Northville, was visiting the library with her four children, Eleanor, 6, Hugh, 4, and Oliver, 8, in addition to little Jack. 

“Studies have shown that the best readiness for kindergarten and even lifelong learning is from reading to children from birth,” Larson said. “So it is going to be really impactful for the community to have this resource for people to bring their young kids even before they start school.”  

Indeed, numerous studies from institutions like Ohio State and the National Institutes of Health have pointed to the importance of early literacy for developing brains.  

In addition to Story Time readings, future programming at the Early Literacy Center will include “Club Baby” playtime for kids up to 2, health and hygiene events led by doctors and dentists, car seat fitting instruction, movement classes and more, said Acklin. 

Charles Reed, president of the library’s Board of Trustees, envisions the room as being a welcoming, free gathering place for little ones and their caretakers. 

“This is a wonderful space for grandmas and grandpas, for example, to bring young, young kids,” he said. “Maybe grandma and grandpa don’t have a lot of toys at home, and maybe they are babysitting because of parents having to work, especially in this weird time of the pandemic. And as we come out of the pandemic, what I’m hoping is that we get more groups interacting.”

Prior to creating the new center, families were welcome — and still are — to read in the main area in the children’s section of the library. But that’s just not quite as cozy, and it’s not a place that families with young children can call their own, Acklin said.   

She said she hopes the room becomes a place where families can connect and where children can develop a comfort with the library. 

“I hope they see it is a home away from home. They see it as a place where they learn, and a place where they want to be,” Acklin said. “That carries then into Story Time, into other children’s programming for our elementary school children. And then it grows to the entire library.” 

Acklin noted that if children keep coming back to the library, “we get lifelong learners. And that’s the goal.”

Andrew Waite can be reached at [email protected] and at 518-417-9338. Follow him on Twitter @UpstateWaite. 

By Andrew Waite

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