Fostering a lifelong love of learning

As an assistant at Fort Dodge Public Library, Rachel Lavender is instrumental in helping foster a lifelong love of learning in the community’s children.

Lavender’s duties at the library are many.

“I help in the children’s department, preparing things for Storytime and open houses, and other reading programs and events we do,” she said. “I also run our Facebook page and do website maintenance, add things on as they occur or upcoming events, library news. I get that on there every week.”

The library’s Storytime program, which runs for six weeks in winter, fall and spring, requires much preparation from Lavender and Laurie Hotz, the library’s youth services director.

“She works on the stories and different topics they’ll talk about, while I help prepare name tags and giveaways,” Lavender said. “It’s a lot more than you would think went into it. It’s very well prepared by both of us.”

Working with so many children, many as young as 3 years old, is not a challenge, Lavender said.

“I really enjoy working with them because for them everything is so new and exciting, and they love coming in here,” she said. “Sometimes they can be a little too excited and get a little loud, but I think it brings a sense of youth to the library that sometimes you don’t see.”

A privilege for Lavender is seeing the children first discover the library and then grow over the years.

“We have kids, when I started six years ago, that were 3 that just started coming to Storytime, and they come in now and they’re 9-year-olds,” she said. “It’s just crazy to see how much they change and how much they grow even just in the few years that they’re coming to Storytime, from ages 3 to 6. And they go off to elementary school and they come in. It kind of makes you feel old. I’m sure that’s how parents feel more than I do.”

As the youths grow, so too does their love of reading.

“It’s really neat watching them go from the picture books to the easy books into the chapter books,” Lavender said. “It’s really cool.”

Lavender said she enjoys playing a part in helping children discover a love of reading.

“We have kids that come that were in Storytime, and the parents will come back once they’re in kindergarten or first grade and give us updates about how the kids are doing with their reading and how they’re such good readers now and they’re so far ahead,” she said. “It really makes it fulfilling for me to see that it carries on with them, what we do here, into their lives later on.”