When children attend storytimes at Southwest Public Libraries, they do more than listen to a story.

Storytimes prepare their minds for a lifetime of reading and learning, and their parents or guardians benefit, as well. Libraries and reading do not have to be boring, and the sooner children learn this, the better equipped they will be for a lifetime love of learning.

Grove City and Westland Area libraries offer storytimes throughout the week that are geared toward the youngest patrons, the ones who are just beginning to discover both the joy of reading and the value of visiting the local library.

Staff members use stories, music, dance, games and crafts to introduce children to great books, teach them socialization skills and encourage them to solve problems, complete challenges and have fun with reading and visiting the library. Staff members constantly are training, attending seminars and workshops and exploring best practices to find the most effective ways of reaching out to children and making those connections with young audiences when they attend storytimes.

Storytimes are divided into age groups, starting with babies. Babies can begin developing skills and a vocabulary that will help when they are older and learning to read. Every new word and every new experience makes a connection in their brains. More connections prepare them to recognize sounds and words.

Rhyming and repeating words might seem like a silly game, but it helps children remember sounds they will encounter when reading. As the children get older, storytime activities change to reflect that advancement in their motor skills and learning capabilities.

However, storytime is not just a place for parents to drop their children on the carpet and leave -- it should be a resource for adults. Storytime is a fun activity for children and their parents to participate in together. Not only do adults get to enjoy positive, quality time with their young ones, the storytimes also demonstrate fun games and activities they can do at home. One of our staff mottos is that children are made into readers on the laps of their parents.

Most importantly, staff members want children to have a positive connection with reading and visiting the library. If children view those activities as chores, as things they have to do, they are more likely to struggle than children who enjoy them.

At Southwest Public Libraries, our goal is to serve as the community's center for lifelong learning, and learning cannot be lifelong if children don't begin immediately.

Mark Dubovec is communications manager for Southwest Public Libraries. Contact him at mdubovec@swpl.org.