KDL programming helps parents and caregivers create a strong foundation

Being a parent or a caregiver is a job unlike any other, but Kent District Library (KDL) has programs in place to help those who are raising their families feel less alone. With programming in place, KDL aims to help parents and caregivers foster a strong foundation for children and their families. 

Stress happens to all of us, so it’s important to find healthy ways to cope with it. Parental mental health is crucial to creating and keeping a calm family environment. Stressful home situations can negatively impact a child’s ability to learn and retain, says Sara Magnuson, KDL librarian and outreach specialist. “By teaching parents skills to identify their own stress, they will have tools to help their children better cope with their needs as well,” Magnuson says. 

KDL has a variety of programs and support groups in place to create a sense of community for parents, caregivers and families alike. “The library can be a place for parents to find community, so if you’re a new mom, the Wyoming branch has a mom’s program which is amazing,” Magnuson says. “Young moms coming together talking about all their experiences, sharing it with people currently going through it; that can be a lifesaver.”

Mama Bear & Baby Cubs Support Group meets Thursday mornings from 10 to 11:30 a.m. at the Wyoming branch. Join maternal support groups for 90 minutes of play time, bonding with other mothers and enjoy free coffee and tea. 

KDL staff member Abby D’Addario implemented the program after library members discussed their struggles with postpartum depression. They wanted to create a safe place for new moms to talk and lean on each other for help and information.

For caregivers with children 0-18 months, KDL offers Babytime, at the majority of its branches. The weekly group meets weekly and is focused on the caregiver's engagement with the child. It includes songs, stories and playtime, and helps with listening and language skills. “That’s a way for the community to develop and give people an opportunity to network with each other with children of the same age,” Magnuson says. 

When it comes to early childhood literacy, a very important and crucial topic for many families, KDL offers tools available through library checkout materials as well as online resources for at-home environments. 

“All of the early literacy materials on our website are tagged with what skills they help develop,” Magnuson says. “So if your child is struggling as a reader in elementary school and the teacher has said we really need you to work on expanding their comprehension skills and that’s really going to help them succeed as a reader ... a parent might not know what that means, but we’ve designed our website, so they can search by the tag comprehension and pull up lists of books that can be divided by reading level.”

Mission: Read!: Booster Packs are also available to cardholders, and include skills and activities targeted at specific grade levels. 

“The labeling on the bag does not say [the grade level] to a child. They may be reading well below grade level average, but a third grader is not going to realize they are using a kindergarten pack to expand their skills,” Magnuson says. “A lot of reading issues revolve around shame. A kid is bullied in the classroom so they’re afraid to even try.”

“Using those go packs and booster packs for the kids can be a great way for a parent to bring the joy back to the learning experience for their kid. They’re engaging one-on-one which really is the most important thing they can do,” Magnuson says. “It brings a parent into the equation, it makes them a part of the learning process and their kid sees that their parent enjoys doing this with them. It instills that habit of connection, daily reading, working together as a family. Parents are modeling behaviors that they want to see their kid engage in, and that is the most important thing you can do to create a healthy, literacy-themed family.”

Additionally, streaming services like hoopla include audiobooks, ebooks and video content. “It really creates so many opportunities for them to kind of create their own learning curriculum, and use the library to its fullest extent from home, even if they can’t get into the buildings,” Magnuson says.

Another important topic of discussion throughout the pandemic has been mental health and fatigue. KDL’s winter programming aims to help tackle this matter. 

Be Kind to Your Mind is a workshop to learn the importance of self-compassion for your thinking, how to diffuse harsh thinking and how to give mindful attention to your thoughts. “This is for adults, but as you can see, as an adult goes in and learns these skills, then they go home and start implementing them with their own children,” Magnuson says.

“We don’t have parenting classes in that they’re labeled as such, but health and wellness, and community building are so important in supporting parents, especially in this difficult time.”

Another winter workshop is Chronic Stress & Management, which covers topics of what stress is, how it impacts your body, your emotions and behaviors, and will teach stress management and prevention.

KDL works closely with community nonprofits and other organizations on its programming to reflect the community’s needs and encourages anyone with an idea to reach out and fill out a presenter questionnaire. “We always say ‘don’t be afraid to ask for what you don’t see,’” says Magnuson.

Ultimately, KDL hopes its programming and community involvement can help parents and caregivers create a strong, healthy foundation for themselves and their families. Through online resources and convenient search databases on their website, Magnuson hopes to create a sense of confidence and independence of parents within the library.

“No parent wants to look like they don’t know what they’re talking about when they’re getting resources for their child,” she says. “Putting those tools in place makes parents feel like they understand what language they should use to ask for help, and it gives them a tool to find it on their own. When you build a tool for one person, it ends up helping 10 more.”

Literacy Matters is a series focused on the importance of knowledge, community resources seeking to remove barriers to access, and the value of our library systems to society. Literacy Matters is supported by Kent District Library. 

Sarah briefly lived in Grand Rapids years ago, before moving back to Lansing, but that West Michigan love never really left her heart. Through her coverage on small businesses, arts and culture, dining, and anything mitten-made, she’s committed to convincing any and everyone -- just how great the Great Lakes state is. Sarah received her degrees in Journalism and Professional Communications. You can find her in a record shop, a local concert, or eating one too many desserts at a bakery. If by chance, she’s not at any of those places, you can contact her at [email protected]
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