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Stories in the park a summer hit

As the clock struck 10:30 a.m. on Thursday morning in City Park, the small crowd started to gather.

Children, parents and care givers spread out their blankets or sat on the bright blue tarp provided by library assistant and program runner Sara Balint.

Stories in the Park is a program that has been running for five summers and has had great success.

Balint said: "We wanted to get programs out of the library as well as in our buildings. That way we potentially reach people who aren’t regular library users as well and to make people aware that the library is bigger than a physical building."

The idea for Stories in the Park developed when the library noticed a decrease in numbers during sunny days.

“Attendance at things like a Saturday story time would go down in the summer, which we realize is because it was so beautiful outside. (So) why not go out where the community is?" Balint said.

The day I attended was sunny and warm, with a strong breeze blowing in from the water across the street.

Balint announced the day's theme was animal noises and proceeded to read two books, demonstrating the sounds each animal on the page made.

At one point, a curious seagull joined the group amongst the story-telling and when Balint talked to the bird, it squawked back, which got a chuckle from the crowd.

Along with book reading, Balint brought out animal puppets, musical shakers to play along with songs she would either sing or play and scarves to dance with through the guidance of music.

“I like making the connections with (the audience)," Balint said. "You often get families who are coming for years so you get to watch their children grow up. And I love the feeling that you’re animating a book. You’re bringing it kind of to life."

Among the crowd that day was two-year-old Felicity and her father, Luke Kroeker, a stay-at-home dad and photographer.

Kroeker said they try to attend a couple of library programs per week and that this was their second time attending Stories in the Park.

“There’s singing and dancing and it's lot of engagement for the kids. They like it and I mean when it’s out in the park it’s nice because then you can just let them run around and play afterward and it’s outside which is nice," he said.

When I tried to talk to Felicity, she just wanted to be back playing on the climber, but did tell me her favourite animal is a monkey (which she demonstrated the sound of by making a 'chatter chatter' noise) and that her favourite book right now is Little Big Girl.

Kroeker said reading is highly encouraged in their household and that the programs the library runs are a big part of that.

“To get the kids interested in reading and literacy early is a big thing because then it stays with them for the rest of their lives. Both my wife and I were big readers when we were younger so it’s one of those things you’d like to pass on."

Balint added: “All the research shows that so much of brain development happens before a child is six."

She says combining music, movement and language is huge when it comes to helping children learn because it engages so much of the brain.

For a list of where and when Stories in the Park happens see below:

Dunham Park

Tuesdays at 10:30 a.m. Located on Mona Drive off Woodbine Road.

McCallum Park

Wednesdays at 10:30 a.m. located East of Highway 15 at the intersection of Donald Road and McCallum Road.

Shannon Park

Wednesdays at 6 p.m. at 199 Wilson St. near the splash pad.

City Park

Thursdays at 10:30 a.m. located on King Street near the play structures.

*The program will run until the end of August*

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