It shouldn’t be surprising to anyone that WQED-TV has been making a concerted effort to work with Western Pennsylvania’s libraries.
“When we work with communities and try to reach as broad of a section of the community as possible, the natural partner is the public library,” said Liz Kostandinu, manager of the ongoing Inquire Within collaboration between WQED and local libraries.
Another natural ally for Pittsburgh-area libraries is Fred Rogers Productions, the nonprofit behind “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood” and more recent children’s programming such as “Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood” and “Donkey Hodie.” Last year, FRP partnered with Scholastic on a few books based on “Alma’s Way,” the show it launched in late 2021 about a 6-year-old Puerto Rican girl living and learning in the Bronx.
Earlier this month, WQED and FRP kicked off a series of story-time events at libraries throughout the region centered around some newer “Alma’s Way” reading material. They’re designed both to expand Alma’s reach beyond just her television audience and show preschool-age kids everything libraries have to offer.
“Reading aloud with children is so important — and fun!” Ellen Doherty, FRP’s chief creative officer, told the Union Progress by email. “We are thrilled to partner with WQED on these story-time events and are delighted that children will hear ‘Alma’s Way’ stories from their Pittsburgh neighbors.”
Although each event will look different depending on the location, they will all include a reading of an “Alma’s Way” book, some sort of craft or activity, and even possibly a screening of an “Alma’s Way” episode. Here’s a full list of story-time dates and venues:
|Adams Memorial Library
|March 21-23, 11:30 a.m.
|German-Masontown Public Library
|March 28, 10:30 a.m.
|Butler Area Public Library
|March 28, 6 p.m.
|March 30, 11:30 a.m.
|Whitehall Public Library
|April 3, 6:30 p.m.
|Carnegie of Homestead
|April 5, 11 a.m.
|Zelienople Area Public Library
|April 6, 10:30 a.m.
|Sewickley Township Public Library
|April 12, 1 p.m.
|B.F. Jones Memorial Library
|April 13, 10:30 a.m.
Kostandinu said that Inquire Within has partnered with FRP on one-off events in the past, but never something “of this magnitude.” WQED and FRP are also working closely together on 2023’s Be My Neighbor Day celebration taking place March 25 at various locations in Homestead.
For Kostandinu, library story time presents “a great opportunity for kids to learn through play” in a less formal setting than school. It’s also a great way for parents to watch the “media mentors” capturing kids’ imaginations via the written word and use that as a model for how they can do the same at home.
“Alma’s Way” made sense for a story-time series on a number of levels. Doherty praised Scholastic for the “care and attention to detail” it displayed in including both Spanish and English text in its “Alma’s Way” books. Kostandinu liked that both versions of “Alma’s Way” cater to children slightly older than the “Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood” demographic.
The “Alma’s Way” story-time events have some uniformity, but they’re also kind of like a box of chocolates in the sense that you never quite know what you’re going to get.
“Every librarian puts their own spin on it,” Kostandinu said. “There might be some movement so that kids aren’t just sitting for the entire time period. Sometimes they’ll do an interactive game of some sort.”
She said some of the activities that will be deployed can also be found at pbskids.org. The craft that kids will get to do will generally involve personalizing an “Alma’s Way” bookmark, and the episode that will be shown at select story times will be one “that features the library.”
As far as Kostandinu’s concerned, libraries are “priceless resources in the community.” She thinks events like this “Alma Way’s”-themed series will both be fun for participating children and a way to reduce the “intimidation factor” they may have for experiencing new places at an early age.
“There’s no greater thing than watching a child hear a story and interact with a story for the first time,” she said. “When they can do that in a safe space and get comfortable with the library, it opens up a whole new world to them.”