Smiley Public Library Young Readers Room: 100 years, generations of readers – Redlands Daily Facts

Posted: October 3, 2020 at 4:55 am


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While the coronavirus pandemic forced the temporary closure of public libraries and programs throughout the country, the children of Redlands were not left behind. The Young Readers Room, which celebrates its centennial this year at the A.K. Smiley Public Library, continues to offer special literacy programs for kids in the virtual world with a human touch.

Pamela Martinez, the Smiley Librarys Youth Services librarian, leads a team that is ensuring local children have access to books and literacy programs. By taking youth programming online for the first time, the Young Readers Room staff has ensured that children, teachers and others can enjoy newfound access to the librarys story times and other offerings. The YRR also has an Instagram account.

The pandemic has helped the YRR expand globally, which Martinez calls an unforeseen benefit. In the future, some virtual programming will be available throughout the year.

It will continue being a platform to reach more people, she said about the move online. We do what we can and are always looking to incorporate new things.

After the Smiley Library closed temporarily in March, the staff changed its in-person story times for kids to virtual events, available on the YRRs Facebook page. For preschoolers, story time is streamed at 10:15 a.m. on Wednesdays; its also available on Redlands TV at 5 p.m. daily. Martinez reads books for kids ages 4-6 and also entertains with songs.

Virtual story time for babies is streamed live at 9:30 a.m. on Thursdays, with staffers reading stories, presenting songs and finger plays for babies up to age 2. Pajama time story time is presented Tuesday nights at 7 p.m. on Facebook, and a Spanish-language virtual story time for kids age 6 and younger is on Saturdays at 1 p.m.

In the first three weeks of August, a combined 3,000 minutes of story time programming was viewed online, said Martinez, who is tracking viewership. Preschool story time was the most popular.

We have people all over the United States watching so thats actually cool. Its opened up for people who dont live in the community to attend as well. Weve learned a lot and its been a great outreach, Martinez said.

Jessica Cross leads story time with her children, left to right, Jack, Charlie and Benjamin, holding baby Lila, in the Young Readers Room at A.K. Smiley Public Library. (Photo by Eric Reed)

Pam Martinez, childrens librarian at A.K. Smiley Public Library, gives an animated story time reading for children who can watch her and other readers on the Young Readers Room Facebook page. (Photo courtesy A.K. Smiley Public Library)

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The Young Readers Room is shown soon after the childrens wing was completed in 1920. (Photo courtesy A.K. Smiley Public Library)

Kids read books in the Young Readers Room. (Photo by Eric Reed)

Melanie Reilly of Beaumont and her two daughters, ages 2 and 5, are among the loyal story time followers. They enjoy watching Miss Pamela read stories.

Reilly used to take her girls to the Beaumont library for stories and crafts before that library closed, so seeing the YYR story time live on Facebook has been a great replacement for her daughters, especially her kindergartner who already knows how to read.

They get so excited when Miss Pamela recognizes them after they check in and she interacts with the kids. She does that with all the kids, Reilly said. Its just nice for our daughters to see a familiar face reading to them. It helps with me being more intentional with early literacy when I read to them. It really is another great opportunity for kids and its free.

Continuing virtual story times online will be a challenge in the long-term, since not all publishers are giving the A.K. Smiley Public Library permission to have their books read online. Some publishers gave the OK through the end of August and others have given permission until December.

Long, rewarding history

While nobody could have anticipated the Young Readers Room turning 100 during a pandemic, it has proven to be popular and enduring despite the librarys physical closure.

The YRR started in a windowless room in the basement of the A.K. Smiley Public Library. Today, the librarys special place for children has been adorned with stained glass windows and blessed with a staff who enjoy reading to children. Its filled with a collection of 31,775 books suitable for children up to ages 12-13 and 4,420 more books for older teens.

The program has expanded greatly since 1911, when Bessie Degenhart, the childrens librarian at that time, started a story hour attended by dozens of local kids on Saturday afternoons at the park. The first Childrens Reading Room as it was called at the time was located in the library upstairs in a small area before it was moved to the basement for more space.

In 1920, a new wing was added to the building and the childrens room was moved there, where it currently remains. In 1924, then-librarian Mary E. Pew started a summer reading program and also began hosting students for class visits from local elementary schools.

In the 1920s, 1930s and 1940s, the childrens librarian treated local kids to walks where they ate lunch, read a book and wrote a journal.

They would see nature and talk about a book and hike back. That was pretty innovative back then, Martinez said.

This informal hikers club was started by Degenhart somewhere around 1913-18, when children ages 10-15 would meet in the librarys Tower Room for the walk.

The Childrens Reading Room continued to evolve. It was renamed the Young Readers Room in 1969 in an effort to expand the appeal to middle school students and older kids.

In 1980, Leo Politi, a well-known artist and childrens book author and illustrator from Los Angeles who fell in love with Redlands, donated artwork to the library and created the mural in the YRR.

A Family Day event was launched 17 years ago to involve even more local families, and it typically attracts 600-700 people. The YRR staff also has been a presence at local community events.

Martinez became the librarian in 2009, and the growth of social media during her tenure has helped to keep the program up and running virtually during the pandemic. Everyone on the staff is working to spread the love of reading books to youngsters everywhere.

Our goal is to keep kids reading, Martinez said. We want kids to still read for pleasure, not just for school. Whatever we can do to encourage that, we will do.

Drive-through Family Day

The 17th annual Family Day presented by the Young Readers Room will be a drive-through celebration on Saturday, Oct. 10. Its open to families of kindergarteners to fifth graders. Library staffers will hand out take-home crafts, one free book for every child, and a free book for each family as guests drive through the parking lot. A special Young Readers Room birthday cookie will be given out at the last station. Hours are 9 a.m. to noon.

Online resources for kids

The Young Readers Room offers dozens of online literacy, art, science, math, cooking, crafting, puzzles and educational programs for kids on its website, akspl.org/yrr. Resources include links to stories, activities and virtual fun from top educational brands and companies including Scholastic, A Mighty Girl, PBS, Diary of a Wimpy Kid, Sesame Street, National Geographic for Kids and Khan Academy. Visit the San Diego Zoo via its webcam or visit Yellowstone National Park virtually. The YRR site also includes resources in Spanish for kids and links to popular fairy tales with Spanish translations.

Books to Go

Library cardholders of all ages can order books, CDs, DVDs or magazines online, by phone or by email, and pick them up curbside. When returned, all books are cleaned and disinfected according to CDC guidelines. Visit akspl.org to learn how to get books to go.

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Smiley Public Library Young Readers Room: 100 years, generations of readers - Redlands Daily Facts

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October 3rd, 2020 at 4:55 am

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