Hazel Park library programs target different age groups

Fresh offerings for infants, middle school students and seniors

By: Andy Kozlowski | Madison - Park News | Published November 16, 2012

HAZEL PARK — From the young to the young at heart, there are a number of new and ongoing activities at Hazel Park Memorial Library.

Books for Babies
The librarians at HPML want to do more for the youngest of readers.

“We all share a passion for fostering early literacy skills in our community,” said Jessica Keyser, HPML director. “We’ve all learned through our training that the early years for a child are so crucial to developing literacy. Having books in the home is a key component of that.”

The Hazel Park Lions Club shares this goal. When they invited Keyser to their October meeting, they asked how they could help improve literacy in the community. Keyser proposed Books for Babies, and the Lions Club agreed to donate enough money for 20 kits to get the library started.

Each kit is assembled by the American Library Association and includes a sturdy cardboard book and instructions for parents on how to nurture literacy in their child. Once the kits arrive at the library, pregnant women or families with newborns can stop by to pick up a kit. There’s no form to fill out, and the kit is theirs to keep.

It’s never too early to start reading to a child, according to Keyser. Reading to the child helps build warm, comforting associations in the child’s mind that stick with them as they grow older.

“For a newborn baby, a parent can start reading to them right away, which is really recommended,” Keyser said. “Above and beyond anything else, reading to your baby is the No. 1 most important thing you can do to foster literacy in them. They don’t have to wait for the baby to be older to read the board books to them. They can start right away.”

Movie Lovers Book Club
For sixth- and seventh-graders, there’s the Movie Lovers Book Club, which had its first meeting Oct. 17 and meets again from 2-4 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 21.

At each meeting, the middle school students watch film adaptation of a book they’ve been reading. At the first meeting, they watched “Bridge to Terabithia,” adapted from the book of the same name. At the Nov. 21 meeting, they will watch “Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’Hoole,” adapted from the book, “Guardians of Ga’Hoole.” 

Snacks and refreshments are provided during the screening, and the movie is stopped periodically for pop quizzes that encourage the kids to pay close attention to the movie.

Before and after the screening, the group discusses the similarities and differences between the film and the text, developing their critical-thinking skills. And sometimes there are crafts, like building bridges out of toothpicks and marshmallows.

The program was started by Chris Walny, the teen services librarian.

“The kids suggested it over the summer,” Walny said. “My fifth-graders that graduated out of my book club were bummed and asked for something else they could do together. And I never say no if I can.”

Since there were so many seventh-graders standing at the door, Walny decided to open the program to them, as well. She said she was impressed by the deep conversation the dozen-or-so students had.

“They took it really seriously, and they were really annoyed by some of the choices made by the filmmaker,” Walny laughed. “It’s cool to watch them make new friends, too. They come here and find other kids like them, and they bond.”

Senior outreach program
For some seniors, the library appears out of reach. Maybe it’s because they can’t drive there themselves, or they’re not physically able to walk that far.

Last year, Keyser and company learned that a number of seniors wanted the library to come visit them instead.

“Years ago, the library did a senior outreach program, which was discontinued — I’m not sure of the reasons why it ended, but there were some residents at the senior housing facilities that wished the program would come back,” Keyser said. “The librarians brought this to my attention, and we decided to try it again.”

Since February, Corrine Stocker, the adult services librarian, and Liz Colombo, the reference librarian, have been visiting residents at Hazel Crest, Hazel Park Manor and American House, on the first, second and fourth Thursdays of each month, respectively. 

They bring with them a handpicked selection of books for the seniors to check out. Many of the titles are large-print books, which are easier for the seniors to read. Stocker and Colombo develop a sense for what’s popular at each place and take requests for specific books and authors.

The population at each place also plays a role: Hazel Crest, for example, has many Arabic-speaking residents, so Stocker and Colombo bring selections from the library’s Arabic-language collection.  

While the program began as a way to bring the library to seniors who couldn’t easily leave home, some seniors have taken to other library programs and gotten more involved. The American House will send some of its residents on a bus, so they can participate in senior book bingo and the adult summer reading program. Some even came to the library’s end-of-summer picnic.

“I think it makes them feel included in the community and appreciated by the library,” Keyser said. “It really is our goal to reach members of our community in all age groups, so this has been a very nice opportunity to reach out to them.”

The Hazel Park Memorial Library is located at 123 E. Nine Mile in Hazel Park and can be reached at (248) 546-4095.