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The Magic Happens Here

By Maree Hawkins

This article appears in our February 2020 newsletter.

The Children’s Department at the Modesto Library is a magical place that encourages young visitors to love books and the library. Everything is designed to welcome children and parents, help them discover a love of books and the joy of reading, and keep the library on a family list of “go to destinations.”

The welcoming staff and the cheerful décor will put a smile on your face. Children naturally gravitate to Ryan’s Reading Tree and make themselves comfortable on the kid-sized chairs, benches and cushions… and the floor, of course!

Large, lettered signs show the locations for picture books, non-fiction, beginning readers, and children’s fiction series. Books are displayed on top of the cases, especially in the picture book area, to entice children and their parents to sit down at one of the many small tables and chairs to read. This Children’s Department also offers puzzles, small toys, and even a play stove to engage children. If you happen to visit the room, you’ll probably hear at least one child plead, “But I don’t want to go home!”

It is a very lively place on many days, especially just before and after the Wiggle Worms story hour. I visited the Wiggle Worm story time and quickly learned that adults enjoy it as well. Storyteller Brian Lillie is singing and enthusiastically making arm and finger movements to go along with the song as story time the program gets under way. Forty to 50 people are in the auditorium: moms, dads, and grandparents along with the children. Most of the children have obviously attended before since they join in easily in songs and finger plays. Brian performs two books, several songs and finger plays, plus bubbles at the end. Repetition is important to learning, so many of the songs are sung twice. All have lots of movement. Most of the children are very participatory; others will sit and watch. Brian says whatever works for the child is perfect. “One day they’ll be ready,” he adds. The stories, songs, and rhymes help develop a young child’s vocabulary, and rhythm activities increase motor skills. One parent shared that she felt her 3-year-old child was really learning how to listen and participate by attending story time.

The Modesto Library usually offers six story times each week (see descriptions below), plus other children’s activities such as clay model magic, dinosaurs, and prehistoric life. Each story time program is designed to help youngsters love books, learn vocabulary, and develop listening and motor skills.

On the day I visit, Children’s Librarian Christin Hutsell and volunteer Anne Britton are busy at the desk. Britton, a Friend of the Modesto Library board member, has volunteered several hours a week in the Children’s Department for the last 18 years. She is a retired librarian and says that helping out is a great way to get her “kid fix;” plus, she gets the latest book info to pass on to her three granddaughters.

Hutsell, a Children’s Librarian for three years, loves presenting story times and programs and says getting to read new children books is a definitely a bonus. She adds that the most requested books from the younger set these days are books from two series: Dog Man and Wimpy Kid. Britton commented that in the last 10 years graphic novels have really emerged, with new books as well as older books being turned into graphic novels. She feels graphic novels are a good addition since children who don’t yet like to read will often be interested in a graphic novel.

A look ahead        

Chris Moreno, Modesto Library Supervisor, says that, thanks to the Friends of the Modesto Library, new lounge chairs for the toddler area and new pre-school size stools and chairs will be purchased. A full-time Spanish Bilingual Library Assistant was hired in January. And staff will be prepping for the next big program on May 16: Día de los ninõs/día de los libros. Día connects children and families to diverse books, languages, and cultures and emphasizes the importance of literacy.

The Friends of the Modesto Library is a nonprofit organization that promotes goodwill and support by the community for the Modesto Library, stimulates public awareness of Modesto Library needs, and seeks out sources of cultural and educational programs for the Modesto Library.

The Friends of the Modesto Library is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit registered in California. All contributions are tax-deductible as allowed by law. (ID#77-0038333).

Support Youth Programs

Friends of the Modesto Library raises money to support youth outreach programs like Summer Reading, Diá de los Niños/Libros and Kids Craft Fairs. We volunteer at these and other Library events throughout the year.

Support the Modesto Library

Modesto Friends raised money for the giant aquarium inside the Modesto Library, as well as new benches in the Children’s area and new paint throughout the Modesto Library. 2019 projects include updating the furniture in the family area of the Children's Library, providing funds for adult and children's programs, and purchasing books for community events such as the County Fair and Día de los niños/Día de los libros.

Serve the community

Modesto Friends reach out with programs like supporting the Book Club at Juvenile Hall and Free Books at the Stanislaus County Fair. Our efforts raise awareness of the importance of the Library and of reading. Join us today!

Mission Partners

Many local businesses support the Friends of the Modesto Library. We encourage you to support them, as they are supporting us.

Epic level ($1000 and above)

Alfred Matthews Logo
  • Beard Land & Investment Co.

Classic level ($500-$999)

  • McHenry Bowl

Bestseller level ($250 – $499)

  • American Chevrolet
  • Winton-Ireland, Strom & Green Insurance Agency

Novelist level ($100 – $249)

  • Modesto Teachers Association
  • Roberts Auto Sales
  • Ross W. Lee, Inc., APLC
  • Sonja Knutsen Interior Design
  • Valley First Credit Union

Other business partners:

  • Dittos
  • McGrath Moving & Storage Inc.

Companies that matched employee donations:

  • Automatic Data Processing
  • G3 Enterprises

Many employers will match your donations. Ask about matching gifts at work.