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Bay County Public Library as Early Learning Resource

Kids participate in “Reading is Our Superpower.”

 Early learning sets the stage for children’s later success.

Libraries provide safe, fun environments for kids to learn, explore and develop skills. For families with limited resources, library programs can be invaluable.

Bay County Public Library (BCPL) serves Panama City’s youth by offering early learning resources through:

You can read about how the local community appreciates BCPL as Early Learning Resource in Word on the Street.

School Partnerships

Students from North Haven Charter Academy visit BCPL.

BCPL’s Youth Services staff has built a strong relationship with the school system.

Classes from local schools visit regularly.

“In October (2014), for example, we had 22 class visits to Youth Services, and all of these classes check out books when they come,” says Robin Shader, BCPL’s Director.

BCPL’s most frequent class visits come from a charter school located next door. Since the school lacks its own library, it uses BCPL to help educate its students.

Children's Programs

“People really come out for our children’s programs,” Shader says.

Child crafting an “I Love Reading” hat at BCPL’s summer reading program.

BCPL’s calendar regularly includes:

  • Book Babies (0 - 17 months)
  • Terrific Tots (18 - 36 months)
  • Preschool Storytime (3 - 5 years)
  • Summer reading programs
    • Kids 3 - 5 years
    • Elementary school students
    • Teens

Patrons especially love Book Babies, which consistently draws 50 or more attendees. For 2014’s Halloween Book Babies program, 93 patrons turned out, many of them in costume.  

Special Events

Students from Hiland Park Elementary signed a basketball in appreciation of author Kwame Alexander.

BCPL holds various types of special events, such as:

  • Science presentations
  • Plays
  • Craft sessions
  • Children’s Book Week programs
  • Author visits

In 2015, for example, Panama City’s annual BooksALIVE! festival kicked off at BCPL with a visit from children’s author Kwame Alexander.

The author of 18 books, Alexander won the 2015 Newbery Medal for The Crossover.  

The Newbery Medal is “like the Oscar in Best Picture of children’s books. I mean, this is a huge deal,” Shader told Emily Balazs in an interview on RAPLINE.

The Crossover details the lives of close-knit twin brothers Josh and JB, both junior high basketball stars. Josh narrates the book in a poetic mix ranging from hip-hop rhymes to free verse.

Alexander succeeded in writing a novel that engages and inspires reluctant readers. Kids who devoured the book were equally eager to hear Alexander speak.

“We had about 250 people in attendance,” says Shader. “The Bay High basketball team was there in the front row, and they were just fixated on what he was saying.” 

Word on the Street

The local community appreciates the impact BCPL has on kids’ lives. Patrons on BCPL’s Facebook page rate the library highly, especially praising its programs for kids.

The press has also taken note of BCPL’s excellent children’s department.

In February 2015, the Panama City News Herald ran a favorable article about Sandra Pierce, BCPL’s head Youth Services librarian, that included a video of Pierce leading kids in a sing-along.

Shader hopes to expand programming in the future.

“I’d love to offer more programs for youth, especially middle readers, and enhance STEM programming and other areas noted as needing improvement in the schools – but I need more staff.  I will keep trying to get another children’s librarian.”

imls180.for.panel.jpgMany of these resources and programs are funded under the provisions of the Library Services and Technology Act from the Institute of Museum and Library Services. Florida's LSTA program is administered by the Department of State's Division of Library and Information Services.