A new children's librarian took over at the Charlestown Branch of the Boston Public Library recently—Laura Miller, a Fenway resident who got her library science degree here in Boston at Simmons College, was hired in November and has been busy launching new programs for kids at the local library. This week alone, she is hosting a visit with special guest Seamus the dog, two story times, an Irish storytelling and book giveaway and a princess party.
Charlestown Patch sat down recently with Miller to talk about her new job, her favorite books and her plans for new programs at the library.
What was your previous position before coming to the Charlestown Branch? I worked in management with a nonprofit bookstore, mainly online. Before that I worked for Barnes & Noble for a long time—I did event planning, children’s story times, even some community outreach where we went into the schools. That’s what made me interested in children’s librarian work.
How does the library’s after-school homework help program work? We have a tutor every day, Monday through Thursday from 3:30-5:30 p.m. It’s open [no registration required], and it’s a really good program. I’d love to see more people make use of it because we have two high school kids who are really good at explaining things to the kids. They don’t just help them do their homework; they actually explain the concepts to them. The program is open to kids in grades K-6, and people can just drop in.
What are some other programs you have coming up at the library? I have a baby story time on Wednesday mornings and then on Tuesday mornings I’m starting a 'reading readiness' program for two- and three-year-olds. We’ve also had a dog therapy group come in where kids can read to the dogs. It’s a really neat program because it actually increases reading scores and builds their confidence. Hopefully that will be an ongoing program.
What are some future programs you're working on? Definitely the ‘reading readiness’ program [on Tuesdays] is a newer one I’m working on. What I’m hoping to do is every other week do a program for two- and three-year-olds and then do four- and five-year-olds in a separate group. That's something I’ve been working on a lot to try to make sure that we’re covering the skills that the kids will need to develop in order to be ready for reading in kindergarten. We’ll be teaching the letters but also rhymes—it’s so important for them to know a few rhymes like 'Hey, Diddle Diddle.' That actually correlates to success in kindergarten. If the child walks in on the first day of kindergarten and can recite a few nursery rhymes its connected to them being successful as students. So those kinds of skills, I hope to include.
The one for 2-3 years will be more on the beginner level and then for the four- and five-year-olds maybe we'll get into the sounds that are associated with the letters and that sort of thing. And then I’ll have a little craft as well for the kids to take home.
You recently had a program where you gave out free books—how does that work? That's our Reading is Fundamental program. We had the Gerwick Puppets come and they did a show called 'Midwinter Magic.' We had over 100 kids come to that. We had all the books set up in here so they watched the show and then they came in here and picked out free books. We'll have another of those [RIF] events on March 14. That’s going to be Irish storytelling because it's just before St. Patrick's Day.
How do you get books for RIF, and is there a way people can donate? Funding for the books comes directly from the Reading Is Fundamental grant, which in Massachusetts is underwritten by the Biomedical Research Corporation. It’s a great program, and we’re the only library in the Boston Public Library system that has this program.
Certainly if people want to donate they can donate to the Friends of the Charlestown Library. All of our other programs and the things I buy for story times and things for the room itself other than books are all paid for by the Charlestown Friends, and they are very generous. They’re a huge help.
What book or series would you recommend for young readers right now? There’s a series called 'Ladybug Girl' that I like a lot. It’s a picture book series, but it’s also good for young readers. I like it a lot because it’s girly—the little girl in it wears ladybug wings and a little red tutu, so she’s really cute and girly, but at the same time she’s also really spunky and has her little adventures. It’s just well written and well illustrated. As for the boys, they all want Star Wars, so we have Star Wars Easy Readers on display here for them.
One I’ve been reading a lot at home to my little girl is 'The Artist Who Painted a Blue Horse' by Eric Carle. It's a really good one for babies because it has very little text and big colorful pictures. My daughter loves it (she’s seven months old).
Upcoming Library Events
• Toddler Time—Every Wednesday in March from 10:30-11 a.m. Stories, puppets, rhymes and more. For children under 3.
• Read to a Dog—Monday, March 11, 2:30-3:30 p.m.—Drop in and read to Seamus, a trained therapy dog who loves to listen to kids read. A great activity to boost reading confidence.
• B Is for Bear Storytime—Tuesday, March 12, 11-11:30 a.m.—Story time and craft, all about the letter B.
• Reading Is Fundamental—Thursday, March 14, 4-6 p.m.—Enjoy Irish storytelling with Big Joe and pick out two free books to keep.
• Princess Party—Friday, March 15, 2:30-4 p.m.—Stories, songs, a craft and a snack for little princesses. Will include a talk about princess manners. Please email firstname.lastname@example.org or talk to Ms. Laura to reserve a place.
For more information, call the Charlestown Branch at 617-242-1248 ext. 1058.