What happens when library programming is targeted towards families who don’t regularly use the library? Unbelievable results—that’s what Colleen Leddy, director of the Stair Public Library in Morenci, Mich., has to say about PRIME TIME Family Reading Time, another innovative, statewide program developed by the Michigan Humanities Council (MHC).
The program uses award-winning children’s literature to stimulate discussion about humanities themes and issues encountered in everyday life. The sheer fact that it targets non-active library patrons already makes the program stand out from similar initiatives that may cater more to regular library users.
Each PRIME TIME session is 90-minutes long and includes a storyteller reading up to three books combined with a facilitated discussion by a humanities scholar. The entire program lasts six weeks.
“The storyteller and discussion leader work together to lay the groundwork for a rich cross-generational discussion of some meaty issues that arise from seemingly simple children’s books,” Leddy said. “These are issues that affect the daily lives of the people in the room. The level of excitement sparked by those books is remarkable, and it’s all generated by the discussion of the humanities issues in those simple books. It’s a different kind of excitement about reading than any I’ve seen.”
Leddy noted that at last year’s PRIME TIME discussions, Stair Public Library had in-depth discussions on a range of topics, including immigration, stereotyping of single moms, dreams of college forsaken to raise children and so on.
“People can relate the books to their lives in so many ways,” she said.
The MHC website reports that programs typically serve 20 to 25 families comprised of parents and children ages 6-12, with separate pre-reading activities planned for children 5 and under.
The program’s goals are to bond families around the act of reading and learning together; reinforce the role of family; encourage parents and children to read and discuss the humanities topics raised in the books; help parents and children become active library users; and highlight the importance of the library in local community and daily life.
According to MHC’s website, since 2008, more than 6,700 Michigan children and parents have participated in PRIME TIME. As of September 2011, there are 19 Michigan libraries that are hosting or have hosted the program through the MHC.
“For our little library, it’s a lot of work and figuring out lots of logistics, but it’s such a rewarding program,” Leddy said. “It involves so many people in the community and gives people an opportunity to volunteer in such a rewarding way. From rearranging the library furniture to create space for the circle discussion to filling bags with books, newspapers, and little giveaways; from setting up the tables and chairs for meals to taking them down again to create a space for the pre-school program; from ‘baby wrangling’ to sitting in the circle to help the children maintain focus; and a million other things, everyone knows that what they do makes a difference. It creates a sense of community among the families and the volunteers.”
To find out more or see if a library near you is participating, visit www.michiganhumanities.org.