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New program helps children transition to school

By Courtney Llewellyn, Reminder Assistant Editor

EAST LONGMEADOW Stories act as food for your brain. In the same way that you go to the grocery store and choose foods that you like to nourish your body, you can go to the library and choose books you enjoy to nourish your brain.

So said Cindy MacNaught, children's librarian at the East Longmeadow Public Library. MacNaught, along with Meadowbrook School, has started an orientation program designed to help preschoolers in their transition from home to kindergarten. This is the first year of the program, and MacNaught is optimistic about its future results.

"This allows for the children to meet before school starts, and it lets them know that the library is here for their lifelong learning needs," she said. "The earlier they can start reading and utilizing the library, the easier their education will be." She also believes that kids who join reading programs might have an advantage when they start school.

Education is not just six hours a day in a classroom, MacNaught insisted. It's also what's going on outside with everything we encounter.

A member of Meadowbrook's Advisory Council, MacNaught worked with the school to develop an orientation program for both those entering kindergarten this fall and their parents.

"We want to open parents' eyes as to what's available," she said. "When a child asks a parent a question and he or she doesn't know the answer, they can come here together to find it." One goal of the program is to highlight how reading can be a bonding activity for families.

The orientation program includes discussion about what to expect at school, stories about going to kindergarten, illustrating the resources available at the library, as well as a story-time and some music.

Language and listening skills are developed during activities like these, but so are social skills like sharing as well.

"There are many preschoolers with emerging reading skills, and we want to encourage them to keep reading," MacNaught said. "And just because some of them can't read doesn't mean they don't like stories."

The program began June 22 and will continue over the next six weeks. Preschoolers and their parents are invited to attend the hour-long sessions every Friday at 10:30 a.m. They are invited to come in alphabetical order by the first initial of their last name.

MacNaught is very enthusiastic about the program. "The library is fun," she proclaimed. "It needs to be fun, and we have fun here."