|Mr. Soldier Bear: educating children since 1985|
The boy toddled up to the bear and smiled and laughed delightedly. His mom instantly knelt down and engaged him in discussion about the bear, even though her son only has a few words and doesn't speak in sentences yet. They discussed what he's wearing, named all his facial features and pointed to their own eyes, ears, nose, etc. I told them that my bear loves hugs so the mom modeled hugging the bear first and the boy immediately hugged the bear too. He thought that was the best and kept laughing and babbling and hugging the bear. Eventually his mom told him that they needed to go get books and they wandered away.
Similar occurrences happen multiple times a day. Even kids who are 6 or 7 will come by and hug the bear for old times sake. This bear has been around for over 20 years and generations of kids have come by to inadvertently share in a learning experience with librarians and their caregivers. They talk and listen. They learn how to hug gently and wait turns. They are amazed by a world in which a bear can be soft and dressed in a cool outfit and be their size. They interact with new and familiar people. They practice new vocabulary. Maybe this isn't mind-blowing, but I think it's wonderful. These interactions are an example of how something as simple as a stuffed bear can facilitate early literacy learning, as well as social learning. As an added bonus, it brings people to my desk, who might not come by just to ask a question. This allows me to ask them about what they're looking for or have already found and allows me to tell them about our programs. So, even though this bear sometimes becomes a punching bag for kids who have been stuck at the library too long, I'm glad he's here. He's a great reminder that even the most mundane things about the library can be beneficial, despite the fact that they aren't new or elaborate. Innovation and development definitely have their place, but so do bears and blocks and crayons. So, it's allllll good! :)