Monday’s ribbon cutting ceremony celebrated the official opening of the Young Learner’s Toolbox Learning Lab, a section of the Moncks Corner Library that features multi-sensory toys, learning kits, and technology designed to encourage children to learn while they play. Attendees of the ribbon cutting included; County Supervisor William Peagler, Councilmen Kenneth Gunn, Joshua Whitley, Dennis Fish, and Caldwell Pinckney, as well as members from the Berkeley County School District, South Carolina State Library, and the Town of Moncks Corner. Supervisor Peagler cut the ribbon with help from a special quest, Santa Claus, who is portrayed by Mr. James Retz a Berkeley County Library System board member.
Funded by a Large Competitive Grant from the South Carolina State Library, the Young Learner’s Toolbox (YLT) program offers assistance to families and children with learning, language, or communication barriers. This multi-dimensional program includes: a series of lectures for parents and care givers, the Learning Lab at the Moncks Corner Library, and learning tools and kits for parents to check out for at-home learning.
While housed at the Moncks Corner Library, the items are available to all library card holders throughout the county. Resources in the Learning Lab include learning kits to build vocabulary and language skills, plush reading buddies, and pre-loaded learning tablets, all of which parents can check out for home use.
Assisting young children with Autism, Asperger’s Disorder, Pervasive Developmental Disorder, Dyslexia, and children who speak English as Second Language is a tremendous need in the Berkeley County area. The YLT aims to provide a higher understanding of the resources available within the community and encourage families and children with learning or communication barriers to engage in play and learning opportunities in a fun environment; one without the structure of a classroom.
Monique Walker, South Carolina State Library Grants Administrator comments, “The South Carolina State Library is extremely pleased with the Young Learner’s Toolbox Program funded by an LSTA grant in Berkeley County. The presentation and display of learning tools was very impressive. We believe this program will be impactful not only to the youth in the community but for the parents as well. The incorporation of technology and play to encourage learning is an ingenious way to capture the minds of today’s youth. Congratulations to the Berkeley County Library staff on excellent services and resources for County families!”
Florence Lewis-Coker, branch manager of the Moncks Corner Library and project lead for the Young Learner’s Toolbox program, explains the need for such a program: “A few years ago, I had a vision: to help children who had difficulty learning because of mental ability. My vision did not progress until two of my colleagues assisted me by applying for a grant to cover the cost of materials for what would eventually become the Young Learner's Toolbox. The Young Learner's Tool Box provides toys, games and other hands-on activities to help promote their learning skills.”
Lewis-Coker continues to explain the impact the program has already had on its users, “The Young Learner's Toolbox has proven to be an invaluable resource to therapists, parents, and children. Many therapists have even used the Toolbox to conduct exercise sessions in the library. The Toolbox provides a unique opportunity for parents and children to learn and develop social skills through play.”
A few weeks ago, Amanda, a customer of the Moncks Corner Library, sent a note on behalf of Noah, her son with autism. "My son and l use the learning toolbox play area at the library weekly. He thoroughly enjoys the sensory board on the wall as well as the tables and the goody boxes on the shelves. He has Jacob Syndrome and a sensory processing disorder. Having a safe and quiet area for him to "be involved" is wonderful. We appreciate having an area where children can be a little more vocal. We love the learning tool box area and will continue to visit frequently. Thank you for this opportunity for having a safe environment at the public library for children that normally would not be able to enjoy the library."
The Learning Lab also features a resource center for families to learn more about resources and services for children both locally and nationally including online training, service professionals, and purchasing guides for learning kits and toys. Library staff members are available to provide a hands-on tour of the Lab and its resources giving parents and professionals an opportunity to “try-before-you-buy” and to discover new tools to help children with certain learning barriers. Professionals may also request a private guided play session with their clients.
Elizabeth Harvey, Owner of ABC Therapies in Moncks Corner, is a regular user of the Learning Lab and was more than happy to speak to its benefits at Monday’s ribbon cutting. Harvey thanked the library system for “Breaking with tradition to embrace families that typically remain isolated because they do not fit into the typical mold.” And for allowing, “Children with exceptional needs to play and explore, make noise, grow and learn in a public setting without judgement or criticism.”
For more information about the Berkeley County Library System’s Young Learner’s Toolbox, call the Moncks Corner Library at 843.719.4223 or visit berkeleylibrarysc.org/young-learners-toolbox.
Pictured left to right: Barbara Ash, Sharon Fashion, Elizabeth Harvey, Kenneth Gunn, Joshua Whitley, Caldwell Pinckney, Supervisor William Peagler, Jim Retz, Dennis Fish, Gene Brunson, Rebecca Antill, Monique Walker.