Martin Library unveils new ‘Learn, Play, Grow @ Martin’ play space

Martin Library play space

From left, Youth Program Coordinator Trish Bissett and Children’s Program Manager Lisa Schmittle take a closer look at two of the magnetic educational toys they ordered for the ‘Learn, Play, Grow @ Martin’ play space, which opens Jan. 20. The area will be available for parents and caregivers to use with their children to teach early childhood concepts like math and cause and effect. (Submitted photo)

By DEB SULLIVAN
On the Shelves

Maybe it is the excessive amount of coffee I’ve had this morning that keeps bringing a question and silly image into my head as I write.

The question: “Is there anything you won’t do?”

The image: A librarian or two each dressed in a bright, blue spandex costume with flowing red cape, and giant red and yellow S. Picture the one that actor Christopher Reeve donned in his recurring role as Superman in the movies.

Got the image now? Crazy, I know, but maybe, just maybe, it is more than the coffee speaking. Perhaps it’s the quirky parallel my mind is trying to draw between mild-mannered, glasses-adjusting Clark Kent and the ancient stereotype of the quiet librarian with the cats-eye glasses. You remember the one, with the tight bun and “shhh” forming at the lips.

Time and time again, both Kent and our librarians have shed those images to show us who they really are: strong people who care deeply about their communities, continually putting themselves out there to help others. What wouldn’t they do to help someone else?!

Caffeine aside, what I think really prompted this train of thought is that, once again, our York County librarians have surprised me with an exciting new initiative that promises to serve the community in a dynamic and enriching way.

A brand-new play space called “Learn, Play, Grow @ Martin” will be unveiled at 1:30 p.m. today in the children’s library of Martin Library in downtown York.

The creation of this new area was made possible through a donation from York Township resident and longtime library supporter Lydia Stitt, who wanted to do something in honor of her parents that would benefit families who use the library.

Years ago, she commissioned a mural in the library that ignited the imagination of children. Now, “Learn, Play, Grow @ Martin” will create a play space where parents and caregivers can engage their children in play using quality educational toys that build many of the core skills and knowledge children need for future success.

The play space is stocked with age-appropriate toys geared to children 1 to 5 years old. There are wooden blocks, a doll house with several multi-cultural families, self-contained magnetic learning toys that teach concepts like shapes and numbers, a play kitchen and more.

The educational items were hand-picked by Children’s Program Manager Lisa Schmittle and Youth Program Coordinator Trish Bissett, who selected toys that encourage development of fine and gross motor skills and language development, and build the foundation for reading and math.

“Play is how children learn,” Schmittle said. “It is how they learn about the world, and learn social skills. It is also how young children learn math and cause and effect.”

Bissett chimed in: “Such as if you build the blocks too high, and not wide enough at the bottom, they fall down.”

A primary impetus behind “Learn, Play, Grow @ Martin” is to ensure that every child has the opportunity to play and learn, and has access to quality toys and books. Playing can build confidence and self-esteem, and even help children who might normally stand back become risk-takers as they try out the toys. As parents and caregivers interact with children through play, every opportunity can become a learning opportunity.

Bissett pointed out that an adult can even identify feelings for the child, such as “you are proud of what you built” when the child builds something with the blocks. It is a natural way to expand the typical emotions adults help children to recognize, such as happiness, anger and sadness.

“Learn, Play, Grow @ Martin” will provide a place to gain new experiences and social skills, where parents and children can both make new friends.

“We have wonderful families who come here, and we hope that this new play space will draw new families in to see the many free services we offer,” Schmittle said.

If you go
What: “Learn, Play, Grow @ Martin” opening ceremony
When: 1:30 to 3 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 20
Where: Martin Library, 159 E. Market St., York
Details: The event is free and everyone is welcome to attend. Several area agencies will be on hand — including Family Literacy, Early Head Start, Child Care Consultants/Keystone Stars South Central Regional Key, Focus on Our Future, and Safe Kids — to answer questions about topics such as early childhood education, childcare and child safety. Call 717-846-5300, ext. 242, with questions.

Martin Library
The library is open from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. Sundays, and parking is free in downtown York. There are about 90 parking spaces in close vicinity to the library, and the library also offers free parking at local lots during specific times. Please inquire at a circulation desk for a parking pass and details. Find full hours at www.yorklibraries.org.

About Sarah Chain

I'm an avid reader and book lover living and working in downtown York. Follow me on Twitter at @sarahEchain.
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