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Park City Librarians Virtually Engage Kids During COVID-19 Crisis

More than a dozen librarians wave to the camera on a Zoom call
Park City Library

The Park City Library was one of the first municipal facilities to close in the wake of the COVID-19 outbreak. But that hasn’t kept librarians from connecting with kids. 

Under normal circumstances, the Park City Library hosts programs for children almost every day of the week, including story times, sing-a-longs, and more. Youth Services Librarian Katrina Kmak says the programming draws anywhere from 20 to 70 children and adults on a typical day.

But with most folks confined to their homes, Park City librarians have gotten creative. Instead of engaging kids in person, Kmak and Spanish Services Coordinator Bianca Carrasco talk right into a camera, asking kids about their feelings and what’s sign language for “happy.” Kmak says continuing story time through YouTube videos and Facebook live streams gives a sense of normalcy to parents and their children.

“We want to provide service for the community, regardless of if we’re open or not, as much as we can under these extenuating circumstances,” Kmak said.

Kmak says story time is important for kids’ development, as they learn new sounds and words and how they’re connected to pictures. Recently, Kmak has read a lot of stories related to feelings and emotions, and she also plays songs on the ukulele. Meanwhile, Carrasco chooses stories that have some aspect of multiculturalism or features languages other than English. Carrasco says that’s by design.

“So, exposing them to those different sounds, it really impacts how well they’re able to grasp a language if the parents choose to continue to expose them to it,” Carrasco said. “Also, it’s important to feature books that are multicultural because it normalizes different cultures, different societies, different people.”

Many parents are now taking on roles formerly filled by teachers, when kids were at school. So, what can parents do to keep kids engaged? The answer is unsurprising, coming from Kmak.

“You can’t read enough.”

Carrasco explains that if kids don’t continue to use the reading and other skills they’ve learned, they could lose them, just like when students go on summer vacation.

“You know how we have summer slide? We don’t want it to be spring and summer slide," Carrasco said. "That’s worse, since kids on average lose about two months out of the year being disengaged, and we don’t want to add to that.”

A list of online resources is available for parents at parkcitylibrary.org. Kmak and Carrasco host live story times on the library’s Facebook page every Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday at 11 a.m.

Emily Means hadn’t intended to be a journalist, but after two years of studying chemistry at the University of Utah, she found her fit in the school’s communication program. Diving headfirst into student media opportunities, Means worked as a host, producer and programming director for K-UTE Radio as well as a news writer and copy editor at The Daily Utah Chronicle.
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