2016-01-22 / Front Page

Grant boosts early literacy efforts

By Michael Kelley
Staff Writer


Henry Bucchere, 3, plays a Dora the Explorer game at an early literacy station at Scarborough Public Library as his twin brother, Jack, looks on. The Buccheres, who live in Massachusetts, were visiting their grandmother Sue Leighton, a Scarborough resident, for the week. The stations were purchased through a grant from Saco & Biddeford Savings Institution, which has a branch in South Portland, and will be used as part of the library’s early literacy effort. (Michael Kelley photo) Henry Bucchere, 3, plays a Dora the Explorer game at an early literacy station at Scarborough Public Library as his twin brother, Jack, looks on. The Buccheres, who live in Massachusetts, were visiting their grandmother Sue Leighton, a Scarborough resident, for the week. The stations were purchased through a grant from Saco & Biddeford Savings Institution, which has a branch in South Portland, and will be used as part of the library’s early literacy effort. (Michael Kelley photo) Staff members at Scarborough Public Library are committed to help children develop a love of literacy and be well informed through more than just books and a recent grant from Saco & Biddeford Savings Institution will help library officials do just that.

In October the library received a $5,148 grant from the bank to fund two early literacy stations for the library’s youth room.

The stations, which were installed last month, are specifically designed for children 2 to 8 years old and include 4,000 learning activities in several content areas: science and nature; social studies and geography; reading, art and music; writing and computer skills and reference.

“It’s really nice because every child’s interest can be sparked through any of those category areas,” said Celeste Shinay, programming and development manager for Scarborough Public Library

The literacy stations, produced by Awe Digital Learning Solutions, are interactive with a touch screen, specially designed mouse and keyboard with color-coded vowels, consonants, numbers and punctuation marks.

“They are really great. They are very colorful and vibrant. The kids will have a ball with them,” Don Lauzier, vice president and community relations director for Saco & Biddeford Savings Institution, said of the early literacy units. “They are very interactive. It will be a great addition to the library.”

This is the third generation of early literacy stations the library has had. Former Assistant Library Director Sue Winch, who retired in 2014 after 34 years at the library, initiated the first generation of literacy stations in 2006, which Saco & Biddeford Savings Institution also funded.

“The initial reason for them was as technology was becoming more prevalent, the library felt it needed to be a support for those families who didn’t always have a device, didn’t always have a computer to support children so they would have a level playing field and learn the skills needed for a computer before they entered school,” Youth Services Manager Louise Capizzo said.

Capizzo said even though technology and computers are much more commonplace now, early literacy stations like the ones at Scarborough Public Library are still very much needed.

“The library tries to provide all kinds of opportunity for people when they bring their kids into the library,” she said as parents and children gathered for Toddler Time, a half-hour of nursery rhymes, movement and other activities youth services assistant Marilyn Taylor offers children 18 months and older every Tuesday morning. “This is one of the many ways to do that. Besides book reading, checking out DVDs, playing with toys and story times, they can spend time playing on the computer.”

The devices are not connected to the Internet and offer a safe place for children to play and explore.

“It’s safe. There are games for the alphabet, for sounds, for colors or you can listen to stories being read to you,” Capizzo said.

The devices, Capizzo said, offer a great way for children and their parents to connect through education exercises.

“It’s nice when the parents and the child, or adult and the child work together, but it is not necessary. The child can be sitting here on their own,” she said.

Although the library has had early literacy devices for nearly a decade, they are still relatively uncommon throughout the state. They are common, however, in other parts of the country, including at a library in Long Island, New York that had a dozen.

“More and more libraries are talking about getting them. In the wider library field outside of Maine, they are much more prevalent,” Capizzo said.

Shinay said the early literacy stations would not be possible without the yearslong relationship the library has had with Saco & Biddeford Savings Institution. The relationship has frequented centered on early literacy technology at the library. The bank provided funding for two iMacs for the youth room in 1999, an early literacy station to replace the iMacs in 2006 and a replacement for the early literacy station in 2009. The bank supported the library’s new e-book Cloud Library in 2012 with a $6,000. The library was the first in the state to offer such technology.

“We have a long standing relationship with the library. We have been very, very supportive of the different programs and initiatives over the years,” Lauzier said.

Lauzier said when Library Director Nancy Crowell reached out to Saco & Biddeford Savings Institution to help the library secure updated literacy units, the bank was happy to help.

“They were outdated and needed replacing,” Lauzier said. “Nancy came to us and ask if we would do the same thing this time around.”

“This is part of our giving back to the community. It’s just one of the ways we do it,” he added.

Staff Writer Michael Kelley can be reached at news@scarboroughleader.com.

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