Special storytimes encourage pride, empathy

Pride storytime at Golden Valley Library

Special storytimes encourage pride, empathy

A rainy Saturday storytime at Golden Valley Library included five special guests, preschoolers who at turns buzzed around the community room or froze in various positions of suspended play to listen to children’s librarian Mary Steinbicker read stories and lead songs celebrating each person’s unique gifts. Waving rainbow flags, the children danced in a big circle, fluttering colorful scarves behind them.

The event was only one of 11 storytimes at several Hennepin County libraries, during and after Pride Month in June. The aim is to encourage kids to find and nurture their true selves and learn to love the differences in others.

Stories Together: Pride began about five years ago. They grew from efforts by the library’s Pride workgroup to create more family-friendly events tied to the monthlong LGBTQIA celebration of people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex and asexual or allies.

Creating a welcoming space

A bigger goal is to ensure that all patrons find libraries a welcoming space in their libraries.

“I really hope for something positive and uplifting that contributes to the library being a safe place where you can explore your identity and see yourself reflected in our literature and our programs,” said Pride Work Group co-chair Angel Gardner-Kocher, who also is a librarian at Pierre Bottineau Library in Northeast Minneapolis.

Teaching pride and empathy

The message applies for kids as they learn to celebrate their own uniqueness, but that’s not all.

Celebrating someone else’s traits and gifts helps kids to learn empathy, Gardner-Kocher said.

Golden Valley resident Claire Alber brought her daughter, Marie, to the library expecting a standard Saturday morning storytime. The special theme was a nice surprise for her and her 4-year-old.

“Hennepin County Library does a great job teaching kids good lessons and life morals,” she said, “so they can grow up and be thoughtful and respectful to those around them.”

Find additional Stories Together: Pride events at Hennepin County libraries