A slice of local life: Library’s family programs plant many seeds

What’s happening at the library these days?

The answer is: singing, crafts, reading aloud, snacks, movies, drama, trivia events and more, to go with the usual reading, listening and research.

The list of programs and activities for children, teens and families, is a long one.

Among the books propped up on display on kids’ section shelves is Gertrude Chandler Warner’s “Deserted Library Mystery.”

It might be a good book but with so much going on the title does not fit Hood River Library and its Cascade Locks and Parkdale branches.

Witness the singing and, yes, squirming, among the toddlers at the popular StoryTime at 10:30 a.m. on Wednesday and Thursday.

“Let’s get out our counting figure and we’re going to count everyone in,” children’s librarian Jana Hannigan says, picking up her ukulele and strumming a few chords as kids and parents or grandparents get settled on the carpet and in chairs under sunny northern window.

“We’re going to sing our name song. Sing along if you know it; if you don’t you’re going to learn it like — that,” said Hannigan, with a snap of her fingers. For the next half hour she leads the children in songs and chants, and reads stories with springtime and gardening themes.

“We should all sing more. I highly recommend it. I think we should all get over our shyness about singing,” said Hannigan, mother of two middle-schoolers. She was a longtime arts and music teacher with Columbia Arts in Education before being hired by the Library District in July 2012.

The children sing, “I’m a seed that’s in the ground, I need some sun and water, I grow up a stem, two leaves and then, and ‘pop goes the flower!’”

Hannigan tells the kids, “We’re going to plant a garden and sing a song together; super-simple,” and starts up a rendition of the “high-ho, the derry-o” folk song, grafting to it the lyrics, “the farmer plants the seeds ... the sun comes out to shine ... the farmer plants the seed ... the rain begins to fall ... the seeds begin to grow ... the farmer picks the crops ...”

A 5-year-old boy pipes up, “What are we growing?”

“Good question; let’s figure that out,” Hannigan replies.

(Engaging kids means they engage you with unexpected questions, but it helps when they fit right into the theme.)

She sings, “We all sit down to eat, high-ho, the derry-o, we all sit down to eat,” and then asks each of the kids in turn, “What did you eat from your garden?”

The answers include cereal, pumpkin pie, tomatoes, corn, crackers, and, “broccolis, I like broccolis!”

Hannigan follows with a book about sunflowers, and before a quick lesson in how to make flowers out of pipe cleaner and cut paper, she makes a few announcements about family movie night and other events, and introduces parents to some recommended book titles. Then it’s the “goodbye song” with an invitation to stay for fresh fruit snacks and to make a few more flowers.

“I love my job. I do so many things in a day,” Hannigan said. “I love the variety, being able to make all these connections in the community.”

Hannigan, a 14-year Hood River resident, had in fact planted, those kinds of seeds before she started this job.

“I taught in Arts in Education for many years, and that experience of being in the schools with the teachers and the kid really prepared me for this role. I’d already built connections with people.” She regularly consults teachers, including visiting them in their classrooms, and visits with parents, to get suggestions.

“I call on teachers to help me with my programs. They’re invaluable,” she said. “Their advice is on scheduling, program topics, and book selections.

“They’re a resource for me because they’re in the trenches with the families day in day out, and getting their advice, their perspective, their experience is invaluable. They give me a realistic guide to things,” Hannigan said, adding that “We have a great library staff, and a great boss in Buzzy” (Nielsen, library director).

“We’re all working together to create good things for kids.”

At the end of the StoryTime session, Hannigan gets another piece of feedback, from Peyton, the same 5-year-old boy who spoke up before.

“You were a good teacher today!” he tells her.

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