Guiding Parents and Giving Them A Break In A Time of Uncertainty
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LISA MAZZARELLA, HOST:

About a year ago, we checked in with Betty Lawason, children's librarian at the Wayne County Public Library in Honesdale. She was launching Snug as a Bug Storytime, lending tradition and technology by reading children's books online on Sunday evenings, to foster a love of reading for children and their parents. With the coronavirus keeping most people home for a while, Betty has ramped up her online presence with programs for older children, and she took some time to offer some advice to parents during this stressful time.

BETTY LAWSON:

Sometimes too much information is not good. I don't believe in holding back, but I don't believe in getting children panicky. Having them anxious over this is not going to be helpful at all, and I also really firmly believe how we protect ourselves is what your children will absorb. If we're acting really anxious and worried, if parents don’t think their children can feel that, they're very, very mistaken. So I'm trying, on Snug as a Bug, to read some funny books. I told the parents we have to stay focused and we have to keep laughing. Laughing raises our serotonin level and it does the same for our children - it's an actual chemical change that happens in your brain, so let's try to keep things as light as we can.

MAZZARELLA: You are kind of extending snug as a bug, and you're doing extra readings online. Can you tell us about that?

LAWSON: I've been approached by a couple of parents online saying “do you think you could add more Snug as a Bugs to kind of help the kids get used to being home, and to kind of relax them?” So I just added Wednesday mornings at 10 is a Rise and Shine Snug as a Bug Storytime. The same premise...I read a story, but I've changed it a little bit to extend it after I go offline. I give them a little mission. Today we read a book called Piranhas Don't Eat Bananas, and I wanted them to do a little research on piranhas. There's one piranha who makes a funny noise. Then I want you to draw me a picture of the most ferocious fish that you can think of in your head, with razor sharp teeth. And then I’m going to post them on the library’s Facebook page, I’m already getting them coming in. That extends the story a little bit, and maybe gives them something to talk about at home, and have discussion with their family members at home. We’re gonna start the Magic Treehouse series, and the first book is Dinosaurs Before Dark. It’s a really good introduction to chapter books for kids that are older than preschool but younger than 4th/5th grade. I want them to fill up some of that time, so I'm giving them missions. It's really important that parents and children remember these kids do not need to be entertained 24/7. It's really important for their little brains to have down time, and it's also important for them to feel bored and troubleshoot through that. It's really important for them to problem solve their way out of boredom without their parents. If the children just a half an hour a day can think of something to do on their own, playing with blocks, playing with dolls, drawing, reading - it's good for their brains but it also gets the parents a little bit of a break

MAZZARELLA: Moms and dads, their whole dynamic has been changed because now the children are home, there’s no daycare. So what advice could you give to moms and dads to kind of keep their cool while they're working through all of this, because it's a new normal now?

LAWSON: I think scheduling...from 9 to 9:30 we have breakfast, and 9:30 to 10 we read a book together...let's make up some math problems if it's a school aged child. But I also think parents have to schedule grown up time, a little bit of time during the day

MAZZARELLA: What other things do you think that moms and dads could do with your children while we are kind of hunkered down?

LAWSON: I’m posting on my library Facebook page, which is Wayne County Public Library children's room. Mo Willems, who writes the Pigeon books, he's doing a lunch doodle time where he is teaching kids how to draw. A lot of children's authors are reading their books online. So in this craziness there's some real beautiful things coming out of it. People stepping up to the plate and offering these creative services to keep our kids busy. There is nothing you can't find online. You can research really simple activities to do with your child. It wouldn't be bad to schedule an exercise time. I think we have to keep moving. We used to have dancing time after dinner when my kids were little where I’d blast the music and we would just dance all around the house. You don't have to be wealthy to figure this out, to be creative. Pots and pans...Tupperware and some Wooden Spoons...paper and little scissors to practice cutting...taking paper and ripping it and making a collage. I always tell people that there are 5 early principles to literacy, and it's talking, singing, reading, writing and playing. But now we have to add have patience. We all have a lot to learn through this. We as adults are scared, imagine what this is doing to our children. So my advice is keep it light. We can’t shelter them 100% but keep it light.

MAZZARELLA: If you were to give some advice to the parents who are listening to this broadcast right now, what would that advice be?

LAWSON: During this specific time, give yourself a break. Do not try to be that Pintrest parent. Don’t think you have to post all your accomplishments on social media. You’re human, this is really, really difficult, and it’s very unnerving. Just take a breath. We're all going to get through it, and if it means that your kids aren’t in school for a while, you know what? There's going to be millions of other kids that haven't been in school for a while and we have to hunker down and somehow be a little easy on ourselves.

MAZZARELLA: When you come to children now on Snug as a Bug and all the other additional story times that you're hosting from the Wayne County Public Library, what is your demeanor going to be?

LAWSON: This sweet fun little story time has turned into something that means something different now, and I feel like I had a tremendous responsibility to keep it light and to keep some sort of fun in their day. For the kids who know me, I'm hoping that seeing my face is comforting, and there's also a part of me hoping to calm children down.

MAZZARELLA: A conversation with Betty Lawson of the Wayne County Public Library in Honesdale. Snug as a Bug Story Time is Sunday evening at 7 p.m., and Rise and Shine Story Time is Wednesday morning at 10 a.m. Both can be seen on the Facebook page of the Wayne County Public Library’s children's room. For Keystone Edition I'm Lisa Mazzarella.