After seeing this post at ohdeedoh (which is a surprisingly good source of ideas for youth librarians), I decided that my ideal childrens’ department would have to have a wall made entire of felt, a wall painted in chalkboard paint, and a wall with magnetized paint (and a wall of lick-able wall-paper, if it weren’t completely impossible and, when you really think about it, rather gross).
I learned about BCPL’s Storyville at the ALA conference in July, and ever since I’ve daydreamed of being able to create such a space at my place of work*. Go poke around their virtual tour; I’ll be patient.
Isn’t it gorgeous? It is a perfect early learning space, and we (Americans) are in desperate need of more spaces like it. According to Early Learning Left Out, 2nd Edition,
[…] per child investments are smallest in the critical birth-to-three years—where brain growth is most rapid—and remain small in the pre-school years in comparison with the school-aged and college-aged years.
Let me rant here for a bit. We spend so much money on EVERYTHING else, and if you read Ghosts from the Nursery, you’ll realize that 0-33 months is the most crucial time in a person’s development, and we hardly invest in it AT ALL (to cite ELLO again, “for every $1.00 invested in a school-aged child, 52.1¢ is invested in a college-aged youth, but only 21.3¢ is invested in a pre-school aged child and 8.9¢ in an infant or toddler.”). 9 cents for infants and toddlers, if you are generous and round up. NINE CENTS. 52 cents for college students who are most likey too hungover to appreciate all of the money being invested in them. Sorry, but most people are lost causes by the time they reach college. Even middle school is too late to prevent most social, emotional, and intellectual problems, and trying to intervene is pretty much a lost cause as well.
Children of all ages don’t have enough spaces that are FOR THEM. Yes, they are omnipresent in the big box stores and on the plane and on the bus and in the CoffeeShops and at the movies and sometimes even the libraries (usually unattended and running riot, but that is another story for antoher time), but with the exception of that last space, none of those places are good for kids, unless you think it is good for a child to be barraged with STUFF to WANT, loud noises, and the contact high of freshly ground coffee beans. Kids–from infants to high schoolers–need spaces where they can be challenged in appropriate ways, where they can exist safely, both physically and emotionally.
*I also often chuckle about the use of the name Storyville, but that is because I am a strange person.