As Levittowners prepare for the upcoming summer break, many will turn to the Levittown Public Library for free entertainment and enrichment. The children’s department typically receives the bulk of this influx, catering to a wide range of ages, from newborns to tweens and their families.
For our close-knit community, the children’s room at the Levittown Public Library is a meeting ground for families, tutors, colleagues, Scout troops, play dates and more. This welcoming spirit is the culmination of practices, small and large, that add up to create an inclusive environment for families of all forms.
A significant factor in what makes the children’s room so special is Geraldine Farmer-Morrison, the outgoing head of the children’s department who retired at the end of April. Farmer-Morrison wrapped up 18 years as a librarian at the Levittown Public Library, 11 of which were spent as the department head. During her tenure, she’s shown a dedication to improving the lives of children and their families, with a special eye, as she says, on “watching and reflecting the population.”
For example, after observing the popularity of the summer craft tables, Farmer-Morrison realized there was a need for similar passive programs to help ease the burden for working parents, whose schedules preclude them from more structured, timed programs on the weekdays. As a result, she added an upgraded Lego table to the children’s room and created Pajama Storytime, an evening event when children and caregivers enjoy stories, songs and activities together. It was under her direction that the 1,000 Books Before Kindergarten initiative was brought to Levittown, making it one of the first Nassau County libraries to offer the program, which encourages families to read to and with their young children at the family’s own pace, earning incentives along the way.
In 2017, she introduced the popular Saturday morning program Baby Palooza, during which babies can play while parents and caregivers socialize. In recent years, she’s bolstered the collection of bilingual and non-English books to better reflect the community’s growing diversity.
While this summer will truly be a time of change and transition for the children’s department, there is a strong foundation from which they will continue to build.
Library Director Trina Reed singles out Farmer-Morrison’s contributions as a guiding force for the future of the department, commenting, “Geraldine has done a superb job of blending traditional library service and early literacy with trends in modern library service, leading the way for the children’s staff to move forward.”
The library’s board of trustees has named Jacqueline Fitts (currently the assistant department head) as the new department head and approved a redesign of the children’s room, including its beloved storyhour room. Fittingly, for a place where young minds take flight, the updated space will have an aviation theme.
They plan to focus heavily on STEAM over the summer and throughout the year, while also continuing to emphasize the importance of early literacy, believing that “reading, singing, writing and playing are essential during a child’s first five years,” as Fitts said. The department recently added an early literacy station, equipped with craft supplies and a mailbox for children to “mail” their creations to the librarians.
The hottest months of the year are also the busiest for libraries. While Farmer-Morrison admits that the summer can be intense, she also maintains that it’s “a good intense.” The summer affords families a freer schedule and advises parents that it’s “great to make [the library and summer reading] part of your routine.”
Staff in the children’s room try to make summer reading as fun as possible, using the summer reading program, which offers prizes and other incentives, as a way of not only encouraging reading, but also social interaction and a sense of community; children are allowed to log activities, such as telling jokes or taking nature walks, toward their weekly goals.
As you begin to finalize your summer plans, be sure to say hello to the staff in the children’s room, including its new department head, when you sign up for the summer reading program. Regardless of how the library evolves over time, every generation of young readers and thinkers will have the children’s department there to help soar to new heights.
—Jessica Carruba is a children’s librarian at the Levittown Public Library, where she develops and conducts various children’s programs, and also writes the library’s blog, Checking the Shelf.