Growing Curious Kids

Miss Dayna looks around at a circle of little, smiling faces. “Who can count?”

“Me!” one little boy shouts.

“How high?” she asks.

“100! 10!” children excitedly respond over each other, while others quietly observe.

“Maybe you don’t count YET, but soon you will,” says Miss Dayna.

Children’s Librarian, Dayna DiMarco, uses the word ’yet,’ modeling a growth mindset for parents, grandparents, caregivers, and little ones in Toddler Storytime at Stark Library’s Lake Community Branch. The growth mindset is a key component of the Library’s literacy program, designed to help families prepare children through age eight for success in school and in life.

“A growth mindset offers an opportunity for kids to blossom and improve,” Literacy Manager, Julia Shaheen, explains. “With a growth mindset, learning will make you smarter, but with a fixed mindset, you’re as smart as you’ll ever be. Kids achieve more when the grown-ups in their lives compliment their hard work on a project or concept. It inspires them to try new things.”

Julia says that after age eight, children ‘read to learn,’ rather than ‘learn to read,’ making it critical for families to continue to help their children develop throughout their early years, rather than focusing solely on getting ready for kindergarten.

Stark Library’s staff encourage families to enjoy learning through exploration and play, rather than focusing only on the result.

Two-year-old Jacob, lifting flaps in a picture book in the children’s section, is happily unaware that his mom is incorporating a growth mindset with him. Elizabeth Williams says that, with her seven-year-old daughter, she would help her make a craft in storytime as perfectly as possible. However, with Jacob, she sits back, lets him explore, asks questions, and encourages his efforts. In fact, Miss Dayna no longer shows an example during craft time because she wants kids to resist aiming for an ideal and, instead, grow in their own way.

At Preschool Storytime, Miss Dayna hands out colored pom poms with Velcro strips. As the dog in the book she’s reading gets covered in messes of different colors, a child with the corresponding color affixes it to a dog on a board. Four-year-old Holly excitedly brings forward a green spot when the dog rolls in the grass. When Miss Dayna realizes that she mistakenly placed a gray spot when the dog rolled in blue paint, she tells the group that mistakes are good; they help us learn.

Holly’s Mom, Emily Hunnicutt notices, “I really appreciate how Miss Dayna helps grow their brains and accept mistakes; like when Miss Dayna made a mistake, she was okay with it – helping the kids to recognize that if they don’t understand something now, that they WILL understand something after they learn it.”

For parents with struggling readers, Julia suggests saying, “Maybe you’re not ready for this book yet, but let me read it to you, or what if we took turns?” She also encourages praising the skills and tips they are using, with phrases like, “I like how you’re trying to sound out those words – or I like that you’re following the words with your finger.”

The library has many tips for parents, including conversation starters. Julia cites an example of an observant parent commenting on a child using blue blocks instead of green and asking why. She says, “It shows them that you care and are interested in what they are doing, but it also helps them think a little more deeply about the project or the thing that they’re doing. And that helps with comprehension skills later.”

And if you earn any strange looks for beginning to implement other tips, like singing a nursery rhyme while in line at the grocery store with your child, congratulate yourself. You are showing the world a parent with a growth mindset.

Visit your Library to find free school readiness and literacy resources.