Little literati are learning the love of reading and a whole lot more at the new Children’s Library, which the Santa Barbara Public Library opened in September after extensive renovations to the downtown institution.
To get the true sense of its wonder, I bribed my 5-year-old son, Nikita Gruzdev, with an organic lollipop to give me a tour of his favorite new cool-kid hangout. “I used to not like libraries,” said Nikita. “But I like this one because it’s okay to talk. They have screaming babies in here and everything.”
The library’s extensive programs vary from teen book clubs and bilingual preschool story time to assistance with mobile devices and adult coloring hour. “You can find cool things in here,” explained Nikita of the highlights listed below. “It’s good to have a little free time to check it all out.”
Computer Stations: These popular stations offer access to technology and online educational programs. “The computers are cool. You can learn to play the drums on them, if you bring your headphones,” said Nikita. “Otherwise, you use them to type and work, and some girls play princess games on them, too.”
Reading Hour with Dogs: Reluctant readers are given a chance to read to a trained therapy dog, which can reduce anxiety. “It’s super crazy reading to a dog, but first you want to ask them if they want that,” warned Nikita. “And if they say no, then it’s better not to because you’re a stranger to them.”
The Books: Thousands of books serve as the rallying point for tot and teen reading. “These are the books, and you can’t eat with them,” explained Nikita, laying down the laws of library land. “You can’t step on them, either. Oh, and don’t spit on these. Definitely no!”
Homework Help: “Wait, what does ‘español’ mean again?” Spanish. “Oh yeah, I speak Spanish,” said Nikita with extreme overconfidence. Free tutoring is available for K-6th graders in math, reading, and language arts and is often provided by volunteer high school students.
Read-Along Books: These playful audio recordings paired with books allow kids to read and sing along to popular stories. “Mom, can we buy this Chicka Chicka Boom Boom CD?” asked Nikita while filing through the selection. And that may be the best part of the entire kids’ library experience for parents: Everything is free.
The Santa Barbara Public Library’s new Children’s Library at 40 East Anapamu Street is open Monday-Thursday, 10 a.m.-7 p.m.; Friday-Saturday, 10 a.m.-5:30 p.m.; and Sunday, 1-5 p.m. See sbplibrary.org.