MORRIS – Three days a week children can be found sitting on carpet-covered risers at the Morris Area Public Library listening carefully as Carol Hutchings reads to them.
“Whoa, look at that,” Evan Mounts said Tuesday morning, pointing to an illustration in the book “Russell and the Lost Treasure.”
The children, ages 3 to 5, attend the drop-in preschool storytime, which runs from January to April and September to November each year.
“Studies have shown the earlier you get to kids with reading and interactive activities, the better their reading skills become,” Hutchings said.
Hutchings has offered the storytime since she came to the library in 1974.
Kirstin Emmerick brings her son, Joseph, just like her parents brought her.
“She was my storytime teacher when I was young,” Emmerick said. “We’ve always brought all of our kids, it’s developed a love of reading books to our older children.”
Hutchings said she sees many second generation storytime children during her classes.
“Mom’s are like, ‘We have to get to Mrs. Hutchings storytime,’ they make a point to get them here,” Hutchings said. “It gives me satisfaction that I’m doing what I was destined to do.”
Children from 1 month to 2 years old start out in drop-in lapsit storytime, where they sit with a parent or another adult who brings them. That’s taught by Karen Breunig, before the kids graduate to the preschool storytime.
“Lapsit storytime teaches them how to sit still for storytime,” Hutchings said.
She said several of the children who attend the preschool storytime are only 2 ∏, but because they have attended the lapsit program they are able to attend her class early because of what they learned.
Jaclyn Mounts takes her two children, Evan and Elsie, as a way to promote early literacy.
“It’s good to promote early literacy, but they also enjoy the time with other kids,” she said.
Socialization is one of the keys to the program, but not just for the children.
Hutchings said parents, especially those new to Morris, often form friendships with the parents of other children who attend and some have formed play groups outside of the library.
Jon Lotesto said he thinks the library is a great institution and enjoys getting his girls out every Tuesday to enjoy it.
“I come because I love the kid stories,” Zoe Lotesto said.
On Tuesday morning the children heard two books, “The Special Blanket,” which Evan said was his favorite, and “Russell and the Lost Treasure,” which is Zoe’s favorite.
After hearing the two stories the children sang along to two songs before going to a table to create a craft.
On Tuesday the children created a sheep mask using paper plates, cotton balls and cut-out ears provided by the library.
“Doing crafts teaches them to learn how to follow directions,” Hutchings said. “It is something they have to learn, and the earlier the better.”
Both lapsit and preschool storytime are free to the residents of the Morris Area Public Library district or nonresidents who have purchased Morris library cards.
The storytimes are on a drop-in basis, so children can attend when parents are able to get them there, no registration is required.
The 30-minute classes are held Tuesdays and Wednesdays at 9:30 a.m. and 10:30 a.m. and on Thursday evenings at 6:30 p.m. The library is at 604 Liberty St.