Elle’s first trip to the Wilkinson Public Library was on account of a dirty diaper. I wish I could say that we went that first time because I was an educationally minded mother privy to the importance of reading at an early age… but the reality is that I had heard that the library has a nice changing table.
It was early summer and Elle was barely 5 months old. We accomplished the nappy mission (the library does, by the way, boast the best location for diaper changing in town) and were packing up to head back out on our errand running when one of the nice Children’s Room librarians spotted us trying to make our getaway.
“Hi there!” she said. Elodie thought she was nice, and smiled. “Do you live here?” she asked, after the obligatory goo-goo-ga-ga at baby introductions. “Oh, great! Do you want to sign up for our Summer Reading program?”
“Um…” I hesitated.
“You just have to commit to reading to your child a few times a week, and come to story time when you can,” she explained. I liked the funny “Books Taste Good” T-shirt for Elle, a gift for signing up for the reading program, but I wondered if she wasn’t too young for story time?
“Not at all. A lot of babies come and they love it.”
So, Elle and I committed to reading at home (a great thing to do just before bedtime, I’ve discovered) and joining the circle at story time once a week. Our first Friday, she sat on my lap in the back, since I wasn’t so sure she was, after all, ready for story time. Positioned in the back corner, we could make our fussy baby getaway if necessary. Yet she was mesmerized by the kids, the songs, the puppets, Elizabeth’s fun reading voice… The next week, I sat her on a pillow in front of the big reading chair, and the songs and books kept her quiet and attentive for a full 15 minutes – unheard of for Elodie, the busiest baby in the world.
The summer is, I suppose, officially over, but what started as our Summer Reading Program commitment has turned into a rarely missed weekly event that we both look forward to. Elodie likes the songs and watching the other kids; for me, story time is an opportunity to connect with other moms. That 15 or so minutes a week additionally serves to connect both of us to just one of the many local programs that makes our community a good place to raise a child.
So thrilled as we were with weekly story time, and how it gave us a structured setting to explore greater things with great new people, we then signed up for the Ah Haa School’s Kindermusik Dream Pillow program. Again, Baby Elle surprised me with the enthusiasm and interest she showed, at just 6 1/2 months old, in what is ultimately an educational group setting. We can bang on drums, sing songs and dance by ourselves at home – and believe me, we do – yet doing those things with other babies, all together, in a new place surrounded by all new things lends new energy to those activities. It evolves from mom and baby play to cooperative involvement in a little community. Her drooling on a bell or banging on a drum may seem just like play, but doing it as structured activity with other moms and babies under the tutelage of one of Telluride’s great music teachers (Ulli Sir Jesse) makes it play with a purpose.
For me, it’s a realization that every new experience my daughter comes across is a new opportunity to learn. A program like Kindermusik also serves as yet another reminder that I’m lucky to be raising my child in a community where education, even of a baby, is not only easily attained but also well supported.
More so than buying a house or getting married, having a baby seems to establish your firm footing as an engaged member of the community. You can’t help it. Suddenly, things like story time at the library or Kindermusik at the Ah Haa are things that you actually take part in! And love. And are appreciative for. I believe their existence in this small town helps to build a firm foundation for the future of the community as a whole, because not only does it instill in young minds a love for reading, listening, creating, and learning, it helps foster a sense of communal attachment and participation.
Who knew singing songs in a circle could be so powerful! For a new mom, it’s a delight.
And, a little plug for the Ah Haa: There is still space in the Kindermusik Dream Pillow class for babies. Elle gives it a two-thumbs up. See www.ahhaa.org for details.