Four Mat-Su Valley Libraries are offering what to many young parents is a new experience: an organized weekly program they attend with their babies.
“Baby Lap Sit” brings together a small group of parents (or other caregivers) with their young children, four to 18 months old, for weekly one-hour sessions. Each session is structured to share activities and tools parents can use with their children that will help with their child’s development.
The program is funded by a grant from the Mat-Su Health Foundation based on a pilot project that was done last spring at the Palmer Pubic Library. Baby Lap Sit was developed by Candy Kopperud, Library Services Coordinator at the Palmer Public Library. It is also offered at the public libraries in Wasilla, Big Lake, and Sutton.
The sessions are held for five weeks. Two five-week series were held in the fall and two more will be held in winter and spring, with the first to start in February.
The program uses board books, CDs, musical instruments, and developmental information to provide parents with practical tools and information to support and promote their child’s healthy development. Sessions are limited to 15 adults and their 15 babies.
At least once during the five-week series, community resource staff from the Cooperative Extension Service and the State of Alaska Public Health Department come to share their expertise and answer questions about child development.
“We’re seeing a culturally diverse group of parents and caregivers,” Kopperud said. “It’s not just mothers, either. We have fathers and grandparents, too. An important aspect of this is the opportunity it gives parents and caregivers to share ideas with each other.”
Kopperud developed Baby Lap Sit as a feeder program. “We’ve got this really great Junior High Program and I realized that all the kids participated in reading programs when they were younger. The idea here is to offer a quality program that introduces parents to pre-reading skills and to the resources we have,” she said.
“We’ve had so many new young military families move to the Valley. They come to story time. They’re new, they haven’t formed the social networks yet that people do in Alaska. And for many of them, of course, one of the parents is shipped out. This seemed like a natural,” Kopperud said. One of the biggest challenges has been letting parents know about the program. There is little money for publicity so it’s been mainly word-of-mouth. Kopperud is pursuing additional funding in hopes of expanding Baby Lap Sit to the other three libraries in the Mat-Su Valley.
“One mother told me she was amazed when I sang some of the stories. It just had never occurred to her. So she started singing to her baby and her baby just loves it. That’s how we learn anything,” Kopperud said. “We learn from each other.”