For a new look at learning, book on down to your neighborhood library

By Melissa Hirschl

With school starting in the blink of the eye, it’s comforting to know that the Tempe Public Library is going at warp speed to provide children with lots of exciting enrichment activities and learning opportunities. Here’s an idea of what’s in store for your kids this year:

According to Jean Greives, Tempe youth librarian, the library offers an excellent selection of resources for school children and their parents. The large juvenile non-fiction section offers math, science, and a variety of other informational books for school reports. In addition there are books on the history of the U.S., on countries around the world and on famous people.

“We have an extraordinary collection of non-fiction,” says Greives. “People from all over the Valley come here for that collection because it’s so comprehensive.

“Teachers from around the Valley frequent us a lot as well. The library is able to provide so much because it gets so much support from the city of Tempe. We always have money to replace worn out items.”

Another part of the library’s popularity lies in its abundance of computers that children can easily access for reference material and educational games.

“When teachers give children reports to do on certain subjects, such as the Olympics or presidential election, they can do newspaper searches and look up articles which are in full text now. Previously they had to look up each magazine separately,” says Greives.

“If they have a library card, they can access the library website in addition to several different databases that have even more information. They can even do this from home. To make it even easier for kids to gather information, we now have hard copies of the World Book Encyclopedia which they can check out.”

Pre-schoolers through second graders have something to get excited about as well, with the library’s new Leap Pad system, which are electronic books with a cassette. These books, which can be checked out, are an interactive way to stimulate reading skills in children, according to Greives. “In addition, she says, “we have something called ‘brain boxes’ which are filled with educational toys and books. They contain an assortment of tactile toys for infants, as well as material for young children to help them learn counting and the alphabet.”

Beginning readers can become stellar readers with help from the library’s “controlled vocabulary books,” which are fun for them and have a limited number of repetitive and simple words.

Picture books often have good vocabulary words, but they frustrate young readers,” says Greives. “These books limit the number of words they learn so that hopefully doesn’t happen. The nice thing is that we can reinforce what they’re learning in school.”

School-age children as well can find a lot to stimulate their imaginations at the library. There is an after school “Nature Detectives” discussion group for second and third graders. 

“We choose a book about an animal, for instance,” says Greives, “and we talk about the book and do a craft.”

This is also a program attended a lot by home-schooled children. The program will be offered in September and parents can enroll their children by utilizing the Tempe Opportunities brochure, or by signing up at the library at the end of August.

Older children also can find a goldmine of activities to be involved with at the library. For instance, many honor students can get school credit for volunteering with story-times and crafts. They also help younger children with the computers.

“We also have a teen Friends of the Library group that just started this summer,” explains Greives.

“They are looking forward to helping make suggestions as to what books to purchase and they are really an enthusiastic bunch of kids. One of their big goals is to raise enough money to build their own teen center in the library. The kids meet twice a month (usually on Saturdays during the school year) with a librarian.”

Working parents have a reason to cheer the library as well. The library website, www.tempe.gov/library/kids.htm, offers a homework help page. One of the librarians evaluates their work, in addition to offering websites to assist the children with homework and reports.

“It keeps the information streamlined, so the kids don’t get overwhelmed with information,” says Greives.

As you can see, there is a plethora of activities and learning opportunities for your children. Now, just put some gas in the car and go! The Tempe Library is open from 9-9:30pm. Mon through Thurs. Sunday 12-5:30 p.m., and Sat. is 9-5:30 p.m.