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story.lead_photo.caption Atlanta's Public Library is a welcoming place with its outside flowers, which are watched over by a friend of the library. Photo by Neil Abeles / Texarkana Gazette.

It may seem all youth are smartphone users, but Zachary Henry, 12, of Queen City, Texas, is one who still prefers the local library.

He asks his mother, Laura, to take him to Atlanta Public Library often and she is pleased to do so.

Gallery: Atlanta library spurs imagination, education

Perhaps it is the colorful atmosphere of the library. Flowers decorate the outside, thanks to the volunteer work, and goldfish swim on the inside surrounded by walls of an undersea world.

It may also be the book series "The New Prophecy Warriors" by Erin Hunter, which is popular with youth. Zachary recently checked out the volume "Dawn" and he could hardly wait to get into the pages of the text.

The Hunter books are about warrior cats and Zachary has two cats at home. One is named "Harry the Cat" and is yellow. The other is "Thomas" and gray. They are his friends.

The reason he likes them?

"They are not extremely rowdy," he said.

But he reads for another reason. He gets points toward the 100 he needs to be a Queen City schools' Advanced Reader.

He enjoys these competitive extras at school. Recently, in regional and state 3A competition in San Antonio, Zachary won fifth-place in number sense and 10th in general math. The top 20 get an award, the top 10 an even more special award and the top five a big trophy.

He's also started band in the Queen City schools music program and plays percussion.

Atlanta's library is definitely interested in children's programming and is sending staff member Randi Stratton to New York in May to attend a conference. The event will focus on parenting and the education of children, especially through play.

In the summertime, the library will offer additional youth programing.

 

Learning About Family Place

Atlanta's public library is trying to get the attention of parents. It is sending a staffer to New York state this month for four days of training in the national program called the Family Place, a program which assists parents in being teachers, especially with children and play.

The program asks whether parents know how to play with the child, buy the right toys, evaluate the child's progress?

To find answers, the library's Randi Stratton will first train and then conduct a series of five weekly programs for children, 0-5, and their parents or caregivers beginning 10:30 a.m. Tuesday.

"We're having a hard time getting the word out, but wouldn't it be fun for moms to get together and learn how to be their children's first educators? We might have moms with three children helping those with a first child. When parents come together, good things can happen and be learned," Atlanta librarian Jackie Icenhower said.

Stratton said the Family Place program will present the latest research in creating a welcoming, family-centered environment.

"Sometimes, one buys a toy that requires one button to push to make it work. Afterward, the parent wonders why the child isn't playing with that toy any longer. The simpler toys may be better, but it also requires the parent knowing how to use them."

Professionals will also be present during each week's program to help parents understand healthy child development in such areas as early literacy, nutrition, speech, language and physical development.

"We want the parent to be able to notice things. That's what this program is all about," Icenhower said.

Early registration for the Family Place program is being sought. The parents are asked to register at the library's information desk so that all preparations can be made.

The library's participation in the child workshop is a result of the Texas State Library and Archives Commission Family Place Libraries Project. Begun in 2015, its purpose is to assist public libraries with early learning.

The training Stratton is receiving is conducted at the Middle County Public Library in Centerreach, N.Y., which founded the Family Place effort in 1978. Its work and development has now gone national.

"We just need to get the word out, to get the traction we need, and have parents attend," Stratton said. "If moms knew, they would want and be so eager to come. We're even going to resort to bribery and give door prizes. We love it. It's a great idea, and we hope parents will come."

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