Although it’s the program’s fourth year, the Prime Time Family Reading partnership between the Chimacum School District, the Jefferson County Library and Humanities Washington made its …
Although it’s the program’s fourth year, the Prime Time Family Reading partnership between the Chimacum School District, the Jefferson County Library and Humanities Washington made its debut this year in a new venue.
Chimacum School District has been part of the program since its inception, and its first three out of six nights this year were hosted by the new Chimacum Elementary Library, created in the wake of the district’s reorganization of schools at its West Valley campus.
Michele Moriarty, head librarian for the district, explained that the new library space boasts thick walls and acoustic panels to insulate it from the cafeteria space out of which it was carved.
“This library didn’t really have a grand opening, but by hosting the Prime Time Family Reading program, we hope to show that it can host families and events in ways that serve the community, in addition to the school,” Moriarty said.
Scott Bahlmann, teen and youth librarian for the Jefferson County Library, estimates that roughly 30 people attend the Prime Time Family Readings each week, which are grant-funded by Humanities Washington and use picture books to impart lessons that can foster dialogue between children and their families.
Faith Pray and Richard Jesse Watson serve as storytellers and lead the discussions, which address topics ranging from bravery to compassion. Pray read the story “Going Home,” by Eve Bunting and David Diaz, which led into a conversation about empathy and community, while Watson used a papier-mâché Tyrannosaurus Rex to bridge into a discussion on judgement and truth, as he asked children to identify the T-Rex after each only glimpsing different parts of it.
“I like that the books we select are so representative,” Bahlmann said. “When the book was ‘Blue is the Proudest Color,’ Faith wasn’t entirely sure how to pronounce the one character’s name, but one of the parents in attendance was a Muslim who had lived in Afghanistan, so they knew the proper pronunciation. Likewise, with the book ‘Going Home,’ we see a family in America, returning to their home in Mexico for the holidays.”
Even younger children are served with the Prime Time Family Reading program, which offers them smaller circles of their own, just in case the older kids’ discussions with their parents are over their heads. And everyone is treated to catered meals by Farm’s Reach Cafe, with any extra food going home with whichever families want it.
“I love that we can bring together families who might not ordinarily be in the same rooms together, and we can use these books to spark rich conversations, that share different perspectives and ideas,” Moriarty said. “I love to see those connections being made, with the help of our wonderful presenters.”
Bahlmann appreciates the interactive aspect of the program, and hopes to see such programs integrated more into the schools. He even went so far as to suggest that the Prime Time Family Reading program’s presence and visibility in the community has helped secure its funding from Humanities Washington, which aims to serve larger communities, and looks for signs that such programs have made significant positive impacts in people’s lives.
“We’ve tried to use this program to connect with students whose reading skills might not be as strong, but we’ve also expanded beyond that,” Bahlmann said. “It’s great to be able to host this program in such a fabulous new library.”
“It’s great to be able to do it with such a fabulous new librarian,” Moriarty replied, noting that the Jefferson County Library gained Bahlmann as its teen and youth librarian just last fall. “He’s done an amazing job of adding more youth programs, which have helped connect the kids, the libraries and the schools.”
Following its three sessions at the Chimacum Elementary Library Jan. 9, 16 and 23, the Prime Time Family Reading program returned to the Jefferson County Library Jan. 30, and will be hosted there Feb. 6 and 13, with meals at 5:30 p.m. and the main program running from 6 to 7 p.m.