Preschool program introduces kids to more than reading

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Jane Lundquist, children’s librarian at the McGregor Public Library, shares a book about snowflakes with the kids at last week’s preschool program. Activities are offered for 3 to 5 year olds each Tuesday, at 10:30 a.m., in the library’s community room. (Photo by Audrey Posten)

A LOOK AT LIBRARY PROGRAMS

Over the past few weeks, the North Iowa Times has highlighted some of the unique programs and activities offered regularly at the McGregor Public Library. Our fourth, and final, feature focuses on the weekly preschool program.

By Audrey Posten, North Iowa Times

“What is the snack?” innocently asked one of the kids at the McGregor Public Library’s weekly preschool program as he rolled a mound of salt dough between his palms, intent on making a snowman. 

“That’s one of the most-asked questions,” responded children’s librarian Jane Lundquist, with a chuckle. She threw out several hints, encouraging the youngsters to guess what it could be. It pops, she said, and resembles snow, the theme for that week’s program. “Popcorn,” they eventually determined. 

For Lundquist, that inquisitiveness and excitement is what she’s loved about leading the preschool program since joining the library staff in 2005. 

“I like interacting with the kids,” she shared. “They’re amazing people. They make interesting observations about what they see and hear. They can be silly and make me smile.” 

Held each Tuesday at 10:30 a.m., in the McGregor Public Library’s community room, the preschool program has been offered at the library for as long as Lundquist and director Michelle Pettit can remember. 

“That’s part of the mission, as a public library, to introduce children to literature and reading—and help parents introduce their children to it—before they go to school,” Lundquist said. “Different libraries do it in different ways. And this one has always had different kinds of children’s programming.” 

The preschool program, which is free to attend, is open to children ages 3 to 5 years old. Attendees don’t have to be patrons of the McGregor Public Library, or even residents of Marquette and McGregor. Although parents and caretakers are asked to remain in the building throughout the program, it’s up to them if they’d like to be in the meeting room with the kids to observe or participate in the activities.

“Sometimes local families are busy, but it’s pretty consistent that we have three to six kids in the age group,” Lundquist said. “Once they start coming consistently, they’ll be here for two or three years, and that spills into getting involved in the summer program too.” 

“I’ve watched whole families grow up,” she remarked. “It’s fun to see.” 

Each week, Lundquist selects a theme that ties the hour-long program together. 

“It helps carry the experience for the kids,” she explained. 

She finds ideas online, in books and through summer reading program seminars. Sometimes the kids provide ideas, based on their interests. 

“I experiment,” quipped Lundquist. “Then I learn from what I do.” 

Kids usually start each program with a play activity, completing a game or puzzle or constructing something with blocks or manipulative materials. It’s an opportunity to be creative and pretend play. 

“It’s a gradual introduction and a chance for the kids to talk about what they’ve been doing,” Lundquist said. 

Kids work on respecting each other’s spaces and taking turns. They also enjoy showing one another how to do things. 

Then, it’s on to a story, centered around the week’s theme. Lundquist encourages kids to engage with the book by relating their own experiences and asking and answering questions about what’s happening, or what they think will happen. They join in speaking repetitive lines and making sound effects. 

After the story comes the all-important nutritious snack. Sometimes it’s a new or unusual food. 

“It’s rare that the snack ties in to the theme,” like it did last week with snow, Lundquist said, “but sometimes it does.” 

Following snack time, kids work on a craft project. 

“I like to let kids try things they might not get to do at home,” such as painting, gluing and cutting with scissors, Lundquist noted. “Sometimes it’s a project where they have to follow directions or a sequence, and sometimes they can experiment more with it.” 

She tries to prep well for the project, so kids can complete much of the work themselves. 

“The top priority is that we have an enjoyable time,” said Lundquist. “I try not to rush kids, and let them do it on their own.” 

In fact, sometimes she purposely makes them wait. 

“Sometimes I’ll put out fewer glue sticks than kids, so they have to share and ask their friends [to borrow it],” Lundquist commented. “They get good at helping each other. That makes me smile.” 

The preschool program typically ends with another story. Then kids head off to meet with their parent, grandparent or caretaker, sharing what they learned over the past hour. 

Lundquist is grateful for the connection she makes with the kids each week. The attention they devote to books, the kindness they show to one another, the fun they have with learning—that all spreads outside the library. 

“It’s neat to see that in our community, to see what they’re bringing to the community in the future,” she said.

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