Making Faces at the Library

An oversized plush stuffed animal now calls the floor of the children’s section at Scenic Regional Library in Union home. He’s taken the space previously reserved for Youth Services Librarian Christy Schink’s desk.

She moved into one of the offices to make way for a new preliteracy station that features games, toys and educational practice tools that contribute to literacy skills.

There’s a felt board with a variety of facial components that allows children to create their own characters, which parents can use to engage their child in a talk about emotions or have the child tell a story about them about the character they created.

There are bins with puppets and other play pieces relating to popular children’s books, like “Goodnight, Moon” and “Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?”

There are informational pages for parents with tips on how to use the games and toys with their children and how it helps build literacy skills.

“The intention is for parents to come here and play with their child,” said Schink, noting the rule of keeping quiet in the library is really more about not being overly loud.

“We are a public library,” she said. “It’s for everyone. There’s no running or climbing or being boisterous, but it’s OK to use your inside voice. You don’t have to whisper.”

The one thing the new preliteracy station is not, however, is a drop-off spot for parents to leave their children while they browse the stacks.

“It’s a place for parents and children to be together, to help their child learn,” said Schink.

Patrons at other Scenic branches will find similar preliteracy stations in their children’s sections. The libraries in Pacific, Owensville and Hermann all have them, and those in New Haven, St. Clair and Warrenton have added some preliteracy elements, but lack the space right now to add full stations.

Once all of the libraries are outfitted with the full stations, plans are to rotate the materials around from branch to branch, so regular patrons at each location will have more variety, said Schink.

The idea comes from other libraries around the country and the state who have added similar activities and had success.

“I attended the Public Library Association national conference last year and went to several workshops about preliteracy stations in libraries,” said Schink. “I saw that it’s a trend nationally, and in Missouri as well. The Springfield-Greene libraries are leaders in Missouri in adding these elements to their libraries.  

“It’s just one more thing that we can do in the library to encourage reading and to help parents get their kids ready to read.”

New E-Book Collection

The new preliteracy stations are just one way the library is adding to its emphasis on early literacy. Scenic recently added 100 new ebooks for early readers at the first- and second-grade level.

The collection includes the following series: Step Into Reading, Read-It!, Readers, Buzz Beaker, Sounds Like Reading, Berenstain Bear Beginner Books and Furlock & Mutton Mysteries.

There also are early chapter books in these series:

Pee Wee Scouts, Katharine the Almost Great, Magic Tree House, A to Z Mysteries and others by Ron Roy, Boxcar Children and Junie B. Jones.

Schink said she added the new collection at the request of parents. The library already had ebooks at the third-grade level and up, but back when Scenic was adding its ebook collections around 2010, books at the first- and second-grade level, which are often heavy on illustrations, didn’t translate well to the ereaders (Nook, Kindle, iPad) that were on the market.

“Now the ereaders have gotten better and more affordable,” said Schink.

To download one of the new ebooks from the library, patrons only need to go to the Scenic website,, and click on the ebooks logo. That will take them to the ebooks collection, where there is a search box for them to type in either a book title, series name or author.

Schink believes the new collection will be popular with kids. Demand for all of the other ebooks has been strong.

“It’s been difficult to meet the demand for them,” she said. “It’s hard to keep up with their requests.”

And kids seem just as eager to get their hands on ereaders and ebooks. Schink said at a meeting with school librarians in the Washington and Union school districts, one told her that 50 percent of the school’s students reported having their own ereader or access to one.

“That surprised me,” admits Schink. “But kids are excited about reading on ereaders!”