Text copyright © Katie Mohar. All rights reserved.
Meet your children’s librarian, Aimee Schreiber! Aimee is the Children’s Librarian at Farmington Library in Minnesota. I recently had the pleasure of interviewing her. Aimee’s personal story is uplifting and her advice is wise.
Many people wonder: “What do children’s librarians do?” Hint: They have the coolest job ever! And they are very busy people! You’ll love learning about Aimee’s role – and her creative ideas for getting kids excited to read and be active outdoors. Here is what she had to say!
What inspired you to become a children’s librarian?
I grew up down river a smidge in Winona, MN and perhaps unsurprisingly, I have always loved books and reading. My family were big library users and I have many fond memories of hot summer days spent in the cool stacks at the library, devouring books.
When my brother and I brought home book order forms from school, my parents let us circle anything we wanted with a big black marker. When the boxes arrived weeks later, it was like a mini-Christmas every time! With such a strong appreciation and passion for books, I knew pretty early on I wanted to pursue a career as a librarian.
What were some of your favorite books to read as a child?
When I was young, I was obsessed with having my parents read the Berenstain Bears series of paperback picture books to me, over and over and over. They like to joke that at some point they could recite passages word for word from my favorites! I also very much enjoyed Eric Carle’s Papa Please Get the Moon for Me, which has a truly magnificent fold out section with a ladder reaching for the moon.
When I was reading independently, I chose to read Dear America books, Pippi Longstocking stories, and endless books about mythologies from Norse to Greek to Egyptian. One of the chapter books I re-read the most as a child was Zink by Cherie Bennet; a story about a young girl facing leukemia and her special bond with a herd of zebras from the Serengeti plains. I keep a copy on my bookshelf, to this day.
There seems to be a growing trend among educators to pair books with outdoor play. Is there a connection between literacy and spending time outdoors during childhood?
Oh yes! The outdoors provides a wonderful literacy learning lab where children and families can learn and grow together. When we think about laying the groundwork for successful reading, we can focus outdoor play on building vocabulary, hearing and using descriptive language, and increasing phonological awareness (rhyming and syllable awareness). Something as simple as a jump rope rhyme or chant lends itself to outdoor literacy. Or take a hike and use descriptive words to talk about the nature around you. Better yet, grab a stack of books and set up a “reading zone” tent in your backyard or at a nearby park. One way libraries are partnering with local city and county parks is with Story Trails: giant picture book pages posted along trails and sidewalks, so families can enjoy a story and a stroll through nature!
Do you have one or two simple ideas for parents – or grandparents – to help them encourage the children they love to spend more time reading or playing outdoors?
The simplest idea is just to be there with them! When engaging in literacy and play, indoors or outdoors, kids will get the most out of any activity that they can share with a grown-up. Conversation is a key tool we can use to build children’s reading confidence; so tell stories, sings songs, say rhymes, and read anything and everything (including street signs!) with your child.
If they want to play in the mud, get in there with them! Share observations about the texture and the temperature or connect the experience with a story like One Duck Stuck by Phyllis Root. If a child sees you taking joy in the outdoors and in reading, they are far more likely to view those activities as gratifying and significant.
What are some benefits – to families and children – of visiting a public library?
Public libraries offer families and children fantastic opportunities to engage with literacy in fun and creative ways. One of the best reasons to take a child to the library is for the grown-up to model being a reader. By bringing young children to the library, you can ensure they develop an understanding that reading is valuable and build the habit of reading as a life-long endeavor.
Libraries also offer a variety of free events and programs that offer an educational experience for no cost. One of my favorite benefits of visiting a public library is the librarians! We are ready and willing to help you and your child find books on a topic that will get everyone excited about reading. Children are far more likely to read when they are able to select their own books and materials and librarians can match kids up with books that will ignite their interest.
What sparks your creativity as a children’s librarian? I’m impressed by your innovative ideas for children’s programs and events!
Anything and everything can be a creative inspiration for me. I can be inspired by an idea on Pinterest or an article in a library magazine. I love talking with kids and families about their passions and contemplating how I can turn those passions into programs. Other early childhood educators constantly inspire me to try new things and adapt my current programs in new and exciting ways. I also love attending workshops and conferences to discover innovative ideas and glean new perspectives. Inspiration really is all around when you are a children’s librarian!
In your current role as the Farmington Library Children’s Librarian, what brings a smile to your face?
My favorite part of my job is the people! I love that the public library serves as a community hub for Farmington; a place where everyone is welcome. And I really enjoy getting to know the kids and families in our community. I am definitely happy when I can pair up a child with “that” book; the one that will make them fall in love (or back in love) with reading. It might be something silly like Diary of a Wimpy Kid (Jeff Kinney), something moving like The One and Only Ivan (Katherine Applegate), or a fantasy adventure like The Serpent’s Secret (Sayantani DasGupta). I truly believe that there is a book out there for every reader and the library is a wonderful place for all ages to discover a new favorite read!
What are some of the new programs coming to your library?
Happily, we were able to reintroduce in-person storytimes in the fall of 2022, including Storytime for Babies, focusing on children under two and their caregivers. Lots of songs, bounces, rhymes, and more help lay a pre-reading foundation even with our smallest patrons. We have also introduced Lego Club at the Farmington Library, inviting kids ages 6-12 to join in a new building challenge each month and all creations are displayed at the library between sessions.
There’s nothing more fun than building something epic and getting to show it off on every library visit! We also engage kids with all areas of the library by hosting regular scavenger hunts on all kinds of themes, from Pokémon to dinosaurs. I am looking ahead to summer 2023 already and I am thrilled to be planning more outdoor programs from musical performers to Story Trails to craft events. There is always something new to explore at the library!
What’s the best place to learn more about your library?
The best place to learn more about my library, Dakota County Library Farmington branch, is on our website: https://www.co.dakota.mn.us/libraries. There you can find hours and locations, research tools, and a calendar of upcoming events. And if you haven’t visited your local library lately, don’t be afraid to stop in and say hello. Librarians love meeting community members and sharing all about how the library can enrich your life. Make the library your next adventure!
I hope you enjoyed this interview with Aimee and feel inspired to visit your local library! For further reading, here’s 5 Tips to Get a Child to Love Reading and a simple guide to Building a Children’s Home Library.-Katie