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Promoting Literacy in Alternative Educational Environments

by Meredith LaMothe

The Children’s Museum of New Hampshire has been committed to promoting literacy with children for over thirty years. We share numerous goals with libraries that foster a love of reading, including exploring and learning in a fun and safe environment, making our services available to all people through library membership programs, promoting activities that pull in a wide range of audiences and bringing those activities to different locations through our outreach program. The Children’s Museum offers a variety of programs from our Summer Library Outreach program and Books Alive events to our weekly Storytime Sundays and our Library Membership Program that offers museum discounts through libraries. All of these programs aim to promote literacy and strengthen relationships between the museum and our neighboring libraries.

CMNH Educator Meredith leads the Summer 2013 library program about bioluminescence at Wiggin Memorial Library in Stratham, NH

CMNH Educator Meredith leads the Summer 2013 library program about bioluminescence at Wiggin Memorial Library in Stratham, NH

We are entering the third year of offering our fantastic annual library outreach program that relates to the ALA summer reading theme. The summer 2014 theme of “Fizz…Boom…Think!” will focus on recycling, saving the earth and learning about the human footprint through hands-on projects, demonstrations and fun! Programs in the past have been “Up All Night in New Hampshire!” and “Dig Into the Deep Sea: Fish Aren’t Afraid of the Dark.”

One of the participants shares his homemade underwater creature with Meredith

One of the participants shares his homemade underwater creature with Meredith

We travel to libraries all over New Hampshire, Maine, and northeast Massachusetts to present an hour long program. We’ve received much positive feedback from host libraries and cannot wait to begin another summer of bringing the museum to you!

You may want to call this a Rainbow Jellyfish but its real name Ctenophore or, "Comb Jelly" for short.

You may want to call this a Rainbow Jellyfish but its real name Ctenophore or, “Comb Jelly” for short.

Since 2006, our Books Alive program brings beloved costumed storybook characters to the museum three times each year. Recently we’ve had visits from Curious George and The Man in the Yellow Hat, Clifford and Emily Elizabeth, The Lorax and Corduroy! These events are very popular.

Books Alive! with Corduroy

Books Alive! with Corduroy

Books Alive! with Meredith & Sister Berenstain Bear

Books Alive! with Meredith & Sister Berenstain Bear

Stories about these characters are read, activities that related to the books are available and – of course – children can meet these storybook friends and have their pictures taken with them or just give a quiet high five. These events bring books to life as children step into the story and meet characters that are their friends. We also use this program to promote libraries as a resource and place where families can find the books we read and have on display for each Books Alive.

CMNH Experience Guide Riley meets Clifford the Big Red Dog & Mer . . . er, Emily Elizabeth during a Books Alive! event at CMNH

CMNH Experience Guide Riley meets Clifford the Big Red Dog & Mer . . . er, Emily Elizabeth during a Books Alive! event at CMNH

Books Alive! with Curious George & The Man in the Yellow Hat

Books Alive! with Curious George & The Man in the Yellow Hat

We also host a weekly program called, “Storytime with Meredith & Stu”. Our storytime is hosted by me – CMNH Educator Meredith Lamothe  – and local musician Stu Dias.

Storytime with Meredith & Stu - every Sunday @ 2PM at CMNH!

Storytime with Meredith & Stu – every Sunday @ 2PM at CMNH!

I read several stories on a theme – sometimes incorporating puppets or felt boards and Stu sings a few songs and sometimes joins in reading the stories. He will usually write a song specifically to suit the theme and is recording an album of these songs later this year!

Meredith & Stu prepare for a Royalty themed Sunday Storytime

Meredith & Stu prepare for a Royalty themed Sunday Storytime

Storytime is a great opportunity for families to get together and relax while enjoying books and music. We find Sundays to be a convenient time for families that might not be able to get to a weekday storytime at their local library.

Storytime duo Meredith & Stu will shout from the rooftops about how much they love reading to kids!

Storytime duo Meredith & Stu will shout from the rooftops about how much they love reading to kids!

We hope to meet many of you through our outreach program this summer or during your visit to CMNH. If your library doesn’t currently participate in our membership program, we’re always happy to explain the different levels of participation available for those communities that are interested in their libraries working with the Children’s Museum of New Hampshire.

Stu & Meredith celebrate their Fall themed Storytime in Henry Law Park in front of the museum in Dover, NH

Stu & Meredith celebrate their Fall themed Storytime in Henry Law Park in front of the museum in Dover, NH

We feel strongly that libraries and children’s museums walk hand in hand in their goals to foster a love of reading and promote literacy with visitors of all ages.

Meredith is a museum educator at CMNH. She is one half of, “Storytime with Meredith & Stu” and an original presenter of our summer library outreach program. She is also a MLIS candidate at Simmons College and reference librarian at Scarborough Public Library. Parts of this piece were originally published in, “Granite State Libraries” Newsletter from the New Hampshire State Library.
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