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Latrobe's Adams Memorial Library kits combine teaching aids with tech for toddlers

| Tuesday, Nov. 17, 2015, 5:26 p.m.
Adams Memorial Library Children's Director Karen Herc, reads a story to pre school students in the children’s library on the bottom floor of the building on Monday, Nov. 2, 2015.  Adams Memorial Library has been working on several programs for toddlers and young children, including an initiative with St. Vincent College’s Fred Rogers Center for Early Learning and Children’s Media to provide five different themed kits featuring iPads, books and activities for check-out by parents or by early-learning centers.
Evan Sanders | Trib Total Media
Adams Memorial Library Children's Director Karen Herc, reads a story to pre school students in the children’s library on the bottom floor of the building on Monday, Nov. 2, 2015. Adams Memorial Library has been working on several programs for toddlers and young children, including an initiative with St. Vincent College’s Fred Rogers Center for Early Learning and Children’s Media to provide five different themed kits featuring iPads, books and activities for check-out by parents or by early-learning centers.
Adams Memorial Library has been working on several programs for toddlers and young children, including an initiative with St. Vincent College’s Fred Rogers Center for Early Learning and Children’s Media to provide five different themed kits featuring iPads, books and activities for check-out by parents or by early-learning centers.
Evan Sanders | Trib Total Media
Adams Memorial Library has been working on several programs for toddlers and young children, including an initiative with St. Vincent College’s Fred Rogers Center for Early Learning and Children’s Media to provide five different themed kits featuring iPads, books and activities for check-out by parents or by early-learning centers.

Adams Memorial Library in Latrobe now lets patrons check out a book and an iPad in kits that integrate learning and technology for toddlers.

Five kits with different themes are available at the library, thanks to a partnership with the Fred Rogers Center for Early Learning and Children's Media at St. Vincent College in Unity.

Tanya Baronti, digital media and learning project manager at the center, said the pilot program is meant to help teachers or parents combine traditional teaching aids with technology.

“The kits were an idea to give them some guidance on a theme and try to increase accessibility and comfort level,” she said. “I don't want accessibility to be a hurdle if it can be a powerful tool for teaching.”

Leaders at the center hope the digital mentoring and lending partnership will grow throughout the Westmoreland Library Network, Baronti said.

Piloting the program in Latrobe connects the center to its namesake, Fred Rogers, in his hometown.

“We just thought it made it more powerful and more connected to Fred,” she said.

Health, nature, farms

Karen Herc, children's director at the library, said the partnership will include circulating the kits and sending feedback to the Fred Rogers Center.

“It's always great to partner with anybody, and it's especially wonderful to partner with St. Vincent and the Rogers Center since we're in Latrobe,” she said. “It's an honor to be associated with them at all, so this is wonderful for us.”

The program is part of the center's continued commitment to the position statement on technology and interactive media as tools in early childhood programs issued in 2012 from the Fred Rogers Center and the National Association for Education of Young Children.

The kits cover topics including health, nature and farms, with Scottdale Public Library using a “community helpers” kit to tie in with a program there.

Some Allegheny County libraries are testing the kits, which come in large plastic bins with carrying cases for the iPad, laminated activity lists and journals.

“We'd love to see it go larger-scale and see more kits available in Westmoreland and Allegheny counties,” Baronti said. “It's just exciting to see where it may go.”

‘Family Place Library'

To further promote early childhood education, Adams Memorial Library is developing programs to be designated as a “Family Place Library.”

The designation has been granted to more than 250 libraries across the United States as places to connect parents with resources and nurture child development, according to the organization's website.

An $18,000 state grant helped the library rearrange and add to the children's room, Herc said.

Instruments, a kitchen set and a collapsible crawling tunnel were added and used during a recent workshop with activities for children.

Experts including a speech therapist, nutritionist and development specialist were on hand to consult with parents, Herc said.

Librarians have moved shelves to make more play space, added a donated train table, repainted a wooden fire truck and reorganized toys for easier access.

“It really seems to have made a difference,” she said.

Parenting books have been moved from the main collection to the children's room.

“We have noticed an uptick in people (browsing and checking out the books). ... It makes perfect sense, but we hadn't thought about that before,” Herc said.

The reimagined space creates a better indoor play area within the library for families to access, she said.

“When the weather's bad and they can't go outside and play, now they can come in here for a couple of hours,” Herc said. “We've always had that, but now I feel like we have that even more for the children.”

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