Public libraries are trusted institutions that connect people to services, resources and information at every stage of life, and Pikes Peak Library District can be a reliable anchor for those with young children in their lives. One of the many things that I appreciate about our Library District is the investment to support early childhood literacy and development.

We recognize and prioritize the critical importance of this stage when children’s brains are developing rapidly and they’re gaining cognitive, social, emotional and language skills. Healthy development in the early years of life, particularly from birth to 5 years of age, provide the building blocks needed for a lifetime of wellbeing and educational success. The actions we take — whether as parents, educators or other significant people in the lives of young children — can affect lifelong outcomes for each kid and our community-at-large.

PPLD is here to help you play this important role in a young child’s life. With (and without) a library card, you can access countless opportunities for babies and toddlers so every child can flourish now and later in life. Not only can you take home materials like books, movies and music, but there are so many other options to support healthy development and learning, many of which expand beyond the traditional role of family and children’s services at public libraries. For example, did you know that we have a librarian focused on early literacy?

Three PPLD locations — Fountain Library, Library 21c and Sand Creek Library — serve as designated Family Place Libraries™ that aim to ensure children get the best start in life. They are part of a larger network of libraries that provide spaces, resources and services dedicated to early learning, family support, community connectivity and parent education and engagement. These libraries create fun and welcoming environments where children, along with their caregivers, can play, learn and grow together. Staff are also specially trained and host programs tailored to infants and toddlers.

Families, caretakers and children can enjoy Storytime with their favorite librarians from PPLD in several safe and engaging ways during the ongoing pandemic. It is a no-cost program where children’s librarians read books and sing songs with young participants to promote literacy, nurture listening and other skills, inspire imaginations and encourage a love of reading. Prior to the pandemic, PPLD offered the classic children’s program inside more than a dozen local libraries at least weekly. Now people can participate from their car, virtually from home, and outside or inside a location like the local library, community center or church. Learn more about drive-in Storytime, along with all other options across El Paso County, at ppld.org/Storytime.

PPLD also launched LENA Start™, in partnership with LENA, to improve kindergarten readiness in our community. The 10-week program encourages parents to talk more with their kids who are 0 to 32 months old. Families receive a “talk pedometer” that counts the number of words, conversational turns and electronics heard by their child each day. During the weekly sessions, caregivers connect with each other and receive tips on how to increase interactive talk with their kids. PPLD’s next sessions are scheduled for Tuesdays at 2-3 p.m., starting June 15, and on Thursdays at 6:30-7:30 p.m., beginning June 17. They will be held virtually, and registration is required. Find out more at ppld.org/LENAStart.

There’s so much more that the Library offers for young children and those who care for them. We’re here to help you with early childhood development and lifelong learning, which can begin as early as birth.

Michelle Ray is Chief Communications Officer for Pikes Peak Library District. Besides touting all that the Library offers, the Kentucky native enjoys spending time with her husband, stepchildren and pets, plus hiking, paddling and volunteering. She can be reached at mray@ppld.org or by calling 719-531-6333, ext. 6401.

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