Estes Grows Readers: the Month of the Young Child

by Melanie Kozlowski, Early Literacy Librarian

Did you know that one thousand trillion synapses are formed in a baby’s brain during the first 8 months of life? Synapses are pathways between nerve cells. When we read aloud to a young child—including babies—we are giving them the brain power of a lifetime.

With so much at stake during those early years of life, it’s a great time to ask, “What can each of us in the Estes Valley do to ensure kids have regular opportunities of being read aloud to?”

April is the Month of the Young Child. We’ll be sharing ideas in the weeks ahead—and welcoming your ideas too. This week, let’s start with the basics:

Parents — you got this! Simple activities like reading aloud and visiting your library will prepare your child for school and life.

Reading aloud to your child for 15 minutes a day feeds the brain with lifetime benefits. And regular visits to the library and choosing books to take home helps develop a love of books and reading. Help spread the message of the importance of early literacy. 

In the Estes Valley, we want our kids to meet their highest potential.

However, in recent years, only 39% of Estes Valley children arrived at school sustaining or exceeding benchmarks of school readiness. Yet, with simple activities, that number can be dialed up so that ALL our kids arrive at school ready to learn. Let’s grow readers!

A child who engages in early literacy activities at home is a strong candidate for later success in learning to read. Check out our “Estes Grows Readers” page for a great list of resources and information to get started.

A little background: the Month of the Young Child grew out of what was originally a week-long April initiative by the National Association for the Education of Young Children. This effort has been adapted into many special initiatives across our state and county.

As far back as 1971, NAEYC recognized “the early childhood years (birth through age 8) lay the foundation for children’s success in school and later life”. They add, “It’s a time to plan how we—as citizens of a community, of a state, and of a nation—will better meet the needs of all young children and their families.”

In the coming weeks, we’ll be introducing some new ideas on how you can get involved to help Estes grow readers. We’ll celebrate the local partners who are part of this great effort. And together, we’ll dream big, as we make it our goal that every young child is Kindergarten-ready upon their arrival for their first day of school.

Together, let’s grow the next generation of readers—and give them the fullest opportunities for success they deserve.

100 Free Books for Preschoolers

Estes Grows Readers! Sign up to receive free picture books, mailed each week. For preschoolers entering Kindergarten this fall. Bring delight to a child, while nurturing a daily habit of reading.

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Identity: an Intergenerational Dialogue

What are the issues around group identity and belonging? Join a conversation, especially for ages 14 to 19 and for ages 59 and greater. Tuesday, April 20 at 11 am, via Zoom. Details and sign-up

Election Security: hear from the experts

How safe and verifiable are our votes? Colorado’s Secretary of State and Larimer County’s Clerk explain the process, in a recent forum with the Estes Park League of Women Voters. Watch the recording

Living Room Conversations

After a challenging year, it’s time to reflect. Join a Community Conversation on “Living with Uncertainty”, sharing how we’ve coped, and how we hope. Wednesday, April 14 at 7 PM via Zoom. Details and sign-up.

The Twig is Open

Pick up your Library Holds once again at the Rec Center self-service kiosk. Drive-up book returns are open again too. Learn more about the Twig

Estes Grows Readers

It’s the Month of the Young Child, and we celebrate the importance of early childhood literacy. Watch storytimes with your family, and learn about the many resources available.

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More connected than ever: meet our school partners

by Jamie Murphy, Technical Services Librarian

Jamie Murphy

Springtime in the Estes Valley is brilliant. As rivers thaw and days grow longer, what piques your curiosity? How will you conquer your next goal, inspire joy for yourself and those around you? As we look ahead toward connection and regrowth — a new normal — the Estes Valley Library is grateful for the opportunity to serve you in new ways.

Speaking of connectedness: five local libraries have joined together to create the new Village Catalog. The result: you can now search the combined One Million Items of our public library and all 4 school libraries: Elementary, Middle, High School, and Eagle Rock School. Each location is ready and eager to share–connected with courier delivery. It’s a win-win for local residents AND local students.

There’s never been a better time to prepare for college or a new career, research that mountain sport you’ve been dreaming about, or discover new authors, new movies, new ideas. It wouldn’t have happened without our enthusiastic local partners

To find out what it means for local students, we spoke with Anne Dewey, Instructional Technology Coordinator at Estes Park School District R3:

Tell us about the school libraries and the role they serve.

The school district has libraries in each of the three schools, serving our 1000+ students and staff. In our district, libraries are more relevant than ever, providing not only materials, but a space for working and learning from books, online, and each other. Our libraries are active centers for each of our schools, which really mirrors the experience at the public library.

What are the benefits you envision with the new Village Catalog?

Being a library card holder is such an important part of being a member of a community; we are proud to be part of a community that welcomes patrons of all ages. Becoming part of the Village Catalog expands the materials selection for our students exponentially, since the school library budgets are limited.

Of particular note are the digital holdings and access to full-text news articles. This was a missing piece for our high school students in particular who were trying to do research, but struggled to find relevant, timely, and reliable information for their areas of study.

What are other ways the schools collaborate with the public library?

Our school district has valued the partnership of the public library for many years. We have collaborated on many projects, including author visits, book studies, and college planning programs. We are excited to fortify our partnership through the addition of these services.

Thank you to Anne and to our partnerships with both Estes Park and Eagle Rock Schools.

Curious about the Estes Village Catalog? Need help narrowing down your search results? Wondering how to request a new book? Maybe you have a favorite author–and want to find similar writing styles? We’re here  to help. A million items is a lot to sort through, but the possibilities are as bountiful as springtime.

Watch the Young Chautauqua Performances

Costumed performers present original first-person monologues, based on weeks of research and practice. Live on Zoom. Saturday, April 3 at 7 PM.

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Book Clubs and Local Partners Bring People Together

by Cheryl Homan-Wendell, Literary Services Librarian

Cheryl Homan-Wendell

We’ve all come to know libraries as a place to find a good read. Curious about a particular topic? Sure, we have lots of titles on lots of subjects. Then you might wonder — are there others interested in the same things as I am? Chances are—the answer is ‘yes’. Books bring people together!

One great asset at the Library is our book club partnerships. Collaborating with individual groups and community organizations is a win-win. The Library can respond to topics on your mind, providing multiple copies of books and promotion to other readers. The partner organization brings their expertise to the table by facilitating the group conversation, which also heightens their visibility in the community.

Most of all, our community is strengthened by coming together to discuss a common interest or concern.

Case in point: wouldn’t it be great to have a space to explore personal growth tools from a variety of authors and spiritual traditions? MeeMee Lahman had this vision for the Being Awareness Book Club in 2019, a Library partnership with Salud Family Health Center. The goal: to discover self-improvement strategies through selected books and to learn from fellow readers.

Two years later, MeeMee, a licensed therapist, says this book group continues to provide her “with inspiration, learning opportunities, and new insights.”

How about ways to address real-world problems through the lens of restorative practices? Every October, the Library collaborates with Estes Valley Restorative Justice Partnership (EVRJP) for book discussions on conflict resolution. This has expanded into year-round opportunities for meaningful community conversations.

In fact, this partnership earned a statewide award in 2019. As Denise Lord, executive director of EVRJP explains, “The Library as a neutral convener of community programs and EVRJP’s team of volunteer facilitators are a well-suited match.”

In 2020, race relations became a topic of renewed urgency. Estes Valley Crisis Advocates (EVCA) brought their expertise to multiple book discussions. Drawing upon bestselling titles, group discussions focused on racism, personal awareness and social concerns.

This partnership continues to grow in 2021. Each month, an EVCA counselor or trained volunteer facilitates a small and inclusive conversation, generally oriented towards healing. The goal: helping people connect, discuss, learn and grow. “I believe we have been successful,” says Rosemary, EVCA’s Diversity Outreach Advocate. “We have had people show up eager to participate and learn together to better themselves and their communities.”

On the horizon, the Library is excited to work with the Estes Chamber of Commerce for their Business Book Club. This partnership begins in April, with titles focused on profitable enterprise, marketing and leadership. As participants build their business acumen, they will also learn more about the Chamber, its members, and the support this network provides local businesses.

So much is possible through community collaboration. Let the public library provide support and resources for your interests. To find out more, or to connect with the Estes Valley’s many local book clubs, email me at