ORANGE CITY—Kids who come to the Orange City Public Library’s story time sessions do not just have a story read to them but instead have an interactive and educational reading experience.
“We really like to get the parents involved, the kids involved, during the story times and just learn new vocabulary, get their bodies moving in between the stories,” said Andrea Miedema, one of the youth services librarians.
The library holds story time sessions for kids at 10:30 a.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays during the summer. The story times are open to children of all ages, but Miedema said the oldest kids tend to be in the first or second grade.
The books Miedema has been reading during story times this summer have gone along with the library’s summer reading program theme: “A Universe of Stories.” Miedema said the theme is selected by the Collaborative Summer Library Program, a nationwide nonprofit organization that helps libraries develop summer reading materials and programming.
Since this year’s theme is so broad, Miedema said she has been focusing specifically on its outer space aspect by reading books about space travel, astronauts, Mars and the moon.
“Andrea does a really good job with planning the story times so that they create that interaction with the kids. They help cognitive development, they help early literacy and things like that,” said acting library director Parveen Karim.
About 20 kids attended the story time held Tuesday, July 2. Miedema read three space-themed books to them: “Zar and the Broken Spaceship,” by Dino O’Dell, “Hey Ho, to Mars We’ll Go!” by Susan Lendroth and “Life on Mars” by John Agee.
As she read the books, Miedema had the kids interact with the stories in a variety of ways.
For example, as she read the first book, which is about a human assisting an extraterrestrial in repairing its spaceship, Miedema had the kids mirror the action taken in the book to repair the spaceship. They pretended to push buttons with different parts of their bodies, such as their elbows, feet and noses.
The second book, which is about a group of astronauts exploring Mars, is meant to be sung to the tune of “The Farmer in the Dell,” which Miedema and the kids all did as she read it.
In between stories, she led them in activities she calls “wigglers,” where the kids get up and do physical activities. After finishing the book, she taught the kids “space dance moves” using scarves of different colors they twirled about.
For the second activity, she brought out a parachute and had the kids hold it around the edges and flap it up and down. She then threw balls representing different planets into the center of the parachute, and they tried to bounce them into the air.
After the story time was done, several of the kids stayed to do an outer space-related coloring activity.
Miedema, who has been at the library for six years, said her favorite part about leading the story times is seeing families come together with their kids and get excited about the books she reads.
“I really think that it’s important for parents to engage with their children in literature and get them started really young engaging with books,” she said.
An additional way Miedema said the library encourages families to read to their kids is through the self-paced “1,000 Books Before Kindergarten” program. As the name implies, families in the program aim to read 1,000 books to their kids before they enter kindergarten.
Miedema said they can keep track of their progress either by writing down the books they read or by using the app that goes along with the program. The library holds a graduation ceremony in August for all of the children who reach the 1,000-book milestone.
There are 194 kids participating in the “1,000 Books Before Kindergarten” program, Miedema said, and 46 kids have completed the program since 2015.