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A member of my book club is organizing a children's essay and art contest entitled "Why I Love the Library." Well loved author Amy Tan, former Santa Rosa local, won a similar essay contest as a child 50 years ago. While we wait to see submissions for the April 2010 event, I've been inspired to write my own piece on how libraries won my heart - a love I am working to kindle in my son as well.

A stroll to the Santa Rosa Central Library was one of the first ventures my son and I made away from home in the first months of his life. I almost skipped the whole way there, remembering my early excitement as a child selecting new stories to bring home and pour over. My mother encouraged us to choose any books that caught our eyes during our weekly visits. Some of the books even included a taped recording or puppet to take home. I marveled at the concept of such a place where children were allowed to slip into the world of pictures, prose, and imagination at no cost and such high pleasure!

While I knew four months was far too young for a first library card, I couldn't help but think ahead to the day when my son would be old enough to create his own personal membership. When we my siblings and I were old enough to read on our own, my mom helped us apply for our own library cards. Holding my card and stack of books for the librarian, I felt a million miles tall. The reading world was my oyster and I was allowed to hold it on my own!

My little one had already listened to the tale of E.B. White's "Charlotte's Web" while I passed days rocking and nursing him, but there were many other picture books and stories from my childhood that I was eager to introduce to him. When we entered the children's reading room, I felt like twirling him around and saying, "You can read all of these one day too!" I quickly looked up the shelf locations for a short list of my favorites, while holding him in a Snugly wrap. He cooed and looked wonderingly at me as I gushed over finding "The Girl Who Loved Wild Horses" and "Blueberries for Sal".

Our excitement must have caught the librarians attention, as she came over to chat with us. She complimented our family for addressing the important issue of early reading to promote language development. While I appreciated her commentary, I had other reasons for wanting to read to my child. Listening to a story under a mother's arm is a special quiet time to snuggle and get lost in the rhythm of words - much more than a language exercise to me. I would describe it more as a feeling of bliss and a way to share a love. As an older child, I learned to value reading for its ability to help me pass through difficult times by losing myself in other people's stories and adventures. Often the stories had messages for me, which helped guide my growing understanding of the world. I loved offering "bliss" to my son through reading, but also rekindled my love for stories during the difficult struggles of my first few months of motherhood. Hours chained to a rocking chair flew by with a story in hand!

The librarian also informed us of library programs created to support mothers and children. I was surprised to learn about the range of free activities offered across our county, and especially pleased to hear of Central Santa Rosa's offerings. We live within walking distance of the library, and after reading the list of opportunities, I resolved to return for weekly visits. We've enjoyed the baby and toddler story times on Tuesdays at 10:15 and 11:00 for the past two years. Today, the library has even more offerings!

Central Santa Rosa Library (545-0831 x 538)

* Wiggle Time (Ages 1-3) Wednesdays at 3:00 (April 2009 and May 6, 13, 20)
* Preschool Story time (Ages 3-6) Fridays at 11:00
* Spanish Story time Series (Ages 3-6) Fridays at 10:15 (Mar 6, April 10, May 1)

* Fairy Tea Party Saturday, May 9, at 11:00 (Age 4 and up) Free Ticket Required

* Horton Hears a Who! Thursday, May 14 at 3:30 (Families) Free! Popcorn! Games, puzzles, and a hat craft after the movie

* Family Pajama Story Time Wednesday, May 27 at 6:30 (Families)

Now that Bryles is old enough to walk and talk, he shows his own delight when we make our trip to the library. He jumps out of the stroller to peruse the shelves, haphazardly choosing books that have interesting spines and throwing them into my arms to take home. While this may seem like a strange way to select books, his method works wonders! He has discovered some of our new favorites: "Star Baby" and "Mother Goose Remembers". The Mother Goose book is illustrated with photos of pictures sewn from felt - a great book to help Mommy-O make patterns for our family's felt board.

As he grows and develops, I continue to work my relationship with the librarian. She helped us find books about our trip to San Francisco, and most recently helped us discover a whole section of books about music. My son turns everything into a musical instrument - the vacuum attachments are his bagpipes and my hanger is his trombone! I thought I could support his growing love for music through some good picture books. We recently checked out "Those Amazing Musical Instruments!" by Helsby which includes a CD of recorded songs played by each instrument featured in the book. We are now learning to differentiate between violin's and guitars. While the Santa Rosa library does not offer puppet and book sets like my old childhood library, this kind of find just makes the library even more magical for Bryles.
Our weekly walks to the library have a whole new dimension as we both share an equal wonder of what each visit will have in store for us. The library is an amazing free resource we can all share. Catch up with us tomorrow at the Spanish story time! Or find me in the cooking section collecting books for my article on canning and preserving! See you there!


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