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Posted on June 14, 2023 at 6:00 am
Last week as I was straightening up the picture book area, a man came into the library carrying his child in a car seat. He carefully set down the car seat near the board books and began to look through the shelf. I started to move in his direction in case he wanted a book recommendation, but I quickly discovered that he wouldn’t be needing one.
As he took each book off the shelf, he held it up in front of his child and waited for feedback. The baby was too young to talk yet, but that didn’t matter. The dad understood. If the baby’s eyes drifted off in another direction, he put the book back on the shelf, saying: “You’re right. That one’s way too busy for you. What about this one?” If the baby’s eyes lit up, he knew he had found a winner. “I knew you’d like that one!”
Is your heart melting from a cuteness overload? Mine was!
One of the best parts of working in a library is getting to witness moments like this—moments when a parent is being especially present to their child.
As we round the corner towards Father’s Day, I’d like to honor some of our loyal library dads. We see these fellows every week (sometimes more often!) investing in their children’s futures. I’m delighted to have interviewed them and to share their stories with you.
When I asked my colleagues if they knew any great library dads, Librarian Danielle’s hand shot up right away. She suggested that I talk to Oscar, and she shared why: “When he comes to storytime, I can hear him doing all the early literacy things with his daughter.”
The early literacy things she referred to are the practices that help young children build a solid language foundation before they learn to read. These practices include asking your child open-ended questions, encouraging your child to point out letters and numbers to you, helping them learn the names of objects, and prompting them to describe and compare their toys.
All these interactions prepare a child to learn to read when they are old enough. You can find out more on our What Is Early Literacy? web page.
Oscar also has caregiving help from his mom, who first started the tradition of bringing Lucy to storytime. Now, he brings his daughter Lucy to visit the library up to three times in a single week!
According to Oscar, the biggest benefit of visiting the library is the chance for Lucy to interact with other kids. He shared how important the library is to his family:
“We read to her at home. My wife built up a home library for Lucy before she was even born. So [bringing Lucy to storytime] is more about the social aspect—learning how to share, how to be around other kids. We looked into getting her in a good day care, but they were all full. She doesn’t have any cousins or siblings, and my college friends who have kids have moved away. We’re just very thankful to have a good program at the library close to home. It’s a very good resource.”
Josh comes into the library once a week with his 8-year-old son and 10-year-old daughter. His kids found it hard to believe that I wanted to interview their dad for the blog. “You are so not a celebrity,” his son insisted. I disagree.
I noticed Josh’s interactions with his children because their visits to the library are always so relaxed. Josh lets his children take the time they need to dive deeply into a craft project at the craft table or to scour the library shelves for their favorite books. He’s always just a few feet away, ready to praise their creativity or rejoice over their book choices with them.
When they aren’t in the library, Josh likes to take his kids hiking. His son found a sparkly yellow stone on a recent hike, and he was very excited to learn that he can check out one of our STEM Explorer Kits that includes a rock identification kit from our Library of Things. He wants to know if the rock is gold!
My colleague Librarian Christie put me in touch with Dhaval, who transferred for work from Houston to Spokane. When it came time to find housing in Spokane, the library was a big factor for him.
“Looking [online] at apartments, I had no idea where to stay. But when I saw how close this one was to the library, I said, ‘That is the apartment,’” Dhaval shared with me.
Dhaval or his wife bring their 4-year-old daughter, Neera, to almost every storytime the library offers—even those intended for younger children. Dhaval says he loves to watch Neera interact with children who are younger than her as if she is their big sister:
“When we come to a storytime for younger kids, and it’s time to go into the storytime room, Neera always takes the hands of the younger children and encourages them to come into the room: ‘Come, come! It’s storytime. Come with me!’ She acts older than 4 years.”
Librarian Christie remembers that when Neera first started coming to storytime, she didn’t know much English because she communicated with her parents mostly in Gujarati (a language spoken by more than 46 million people in the Indian state of Gujarat). Christie has enjoyed watching Neera’s English skills blossom. Dhaval is helping Neera grow up bilingual, as he and his wife did:
“That’s a love I have: a love of languages. My parents taught me to understand and speak Gujarati. I’m proud of it. I hung on to it. I want to pass that on to Neera.”
After talking about our shared interest in languages (Dhaval also knows Spanish), I asked what Neera’s current favorite book is. Dhaval responded that “Right now, the book she likes is My First 100 Mathematics Words. She’s always got that one open. I don’t know what that says about her future, but I hope she will be good at math because I’m not!”
Dhaval may not be good at math, but Librarian Christie reports that he does have good engineering skills. “Anytime we bring out any kind of blocks during storytime, Dhaval makes something super elaborate. And he’s always really welcoming to other kids who come to see his creations. If they knock his work down, it’s not a problem. He invites them to build it back up together.”
Along with real-life dads, we also have favorite fictional dads. Here is a list of picture books featuring great dads spending quality time with their kids.
To all the dads and father figures out there, thank you for what you do. The library wishes you a happy Father’s Day!
Dana Mannino is a librarian at Spokane County Library District. She plans library programs for adults and serves as an SCLD liaison to the Latinx community. At home, she hosts biannual Lord-of-the-Rings–themed parties and watches BritBox. How does she take her tea? Very, very seriously.