Five-year-old Eva Cobb sat in her pink tank top and blue jeans, her small fingers wrapped around her tan Ugg boots, listening to librarian Shelley Pelc read a story.
Cobb’s brown eyes lit up as Pelc’s voice changed with each character, reading word after word, sentence by sentence as she turned each colorful page.
Dozens of preschool-age children were treated to colorful children’s stories at Smith Elementary School on Monday afternoon, and similar gatherings are set for the rest of the week at elementary schools and libraries in the area.
This is the Week of the Young Child, an annual celebration sponsored by the National Association for the Education of Young Children with the aim of drawing attention to the needs of young children and their families.
“Preschool Story Hours” such as the one at Smith Elementary, are part of that effort.
“It’s a special treat anytime they get to go see a new place and learn,” said Jane-Morell-Hart, a supervisor at Pete’s Place Childcare Center, who brought children to the story hour.
During the event, young children will listen to stories and take home book bags containing a book and school readiness resources — which were put together through a collaborative effort by members of the Early Childhood Coalition; the Helena Chapter of the Montana Association for the Education of Young Children with support from the United Way; the Head Start Collaboration Project; and the Helena Reading Council.
“The idea is to put the focus on our early learners,” said Carol Dagenais, who helped organize the story hours. “This helps build strong ties between the preschool community and the school community.”
Peggy Hollow-Phelps, a teacher at the Ray Bjork Learning Center, said children are born ready to learn, and the community has a shared responsibility in creating learning opportunities for all young children.
Dagenais says many times the story hours are a child’s first experience in an elementary school.
“Some of these kids when they came in said ‘I’ve never been in a real school before,’ ” she said.
Monday’s visit was Cobb’s second time — the first was last year for the same event. The brown-haired little girl says she loves books, but would really like to read more books about flowers since she is learning about plants at preschool.
Dagenais was all smiles as she led the groups of children from station to station where special guest readers waited with picture books in hand.
“This is mostly to just make our entire community aware that learning starts at birth, not when they walk in the building,” she said.
Preschool story hours
All preschoolers are invited to attend any of the following story hours with an adult.
Tuesday, April 13
Broadwater - 10:30 a.m.
Jefferson – 3:30 p.m.
Wednesday, April 14Hawthorne – 2:30 p.m.
Lewis and Clark Library – 10: 30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m.
Thursday, April 15
Lewis and Clark Library – 10:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m.
Rossiter – 2:30 p.m.
Eastgate – 10 a.m.
Friday, April 16
Central – 2 p.m.
Wednesday, April 28
Kessler – 11:20 a.m.
Reporter Alana Listoe: 447-4081 or firstname.lastname@example.org