Toddler, 'elf' in the Library

Toddlertime and ELF-HELP -- a new look for public libraries.

Educators, Librarians, and Families (ELF) -- Helping, Educating, and Loving Preschoolers (HELP) is located in all 13 branches of the Volusia County (Fla.) Public Library System.

Toddlertime, for two-year-olds and their mothers, is one of ELF-HELP's special activities. Suzanne Shaeffer, coordinator of library services, explained how it works:

During a weekly half-hour program the toddler sits on his mother's lap, and together they listen to stories and nursery rhymes and participate in action songs, finger-puppet plays, and flannel-board activities. At two libraries response was so great that additional toddler groups were formed.

For three- and four-year-olds the program includes a regular weekly morning story time and an early evening bedtime story hour so working parents and their children can participate.

Children of all ages may dial-a-story any time to hear a prerecorded taped story that changes at least once a week. ''This part of the program is very popular,'' Mrs. Shaeffer said. ''In fact, each of the three largest libraries handles over 1,200 calls a month.''

Special films, filmstrips, picture books, and records as well as new phonographs and earphone sets were purchased recently. Librarians introduce parents to books and magazines dealing with early childhood education in the special section of the library called ''The Parent-Teacher Collection.''

Another popular activity are the puppet shows. Each month ELF-HELP staff members and volunteers present a different show at the three largest libraries. These shows then tour the county and perform. At one recent puppet show parents and preschoolers, 20 children from a local day-care center, and a group from a private school enthusiastically responded to the antics of characters such as Sneaky Snake, Mangy Mule, Maximillian the Magnificent Magician, and Jerry and his Bubblemachine (complete with floating bubbles and a bursting balloon).

ELF-HELP staffers have started working on a preschool information file to be duplicated on cards and made available at each library. This constantly updated, indexed file will answer the question: ''Who do you get in touch with to find out about . . . ?'' It will include every commercial, nonprofit, or governmental resource available in the community to aid parents of preschoolers.

Another activity, still in the planning stage, is a series of workshops and discussion sessions with parent groups on early childhood development.

Originally funded as a one-year program by a federal grant in October 1980, ELF-HELP has proved such a success that the state recently gave money for a six-month extension -- until April 1982. Hopes are that at that time a new federal grant will be awarded.

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