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Library's new computer caters to kids
For the Baker City Herald
Kids are drawn to computers, and now the youngest visitors to the Baker County Library have their own designed for children age 10 and younger.
It's called the AWE Early Literacy Station (ELS) and features a touch screen monitor and more than 50 educational software programs in English and Spanish. It is not connected to the Internet.
The computer was purchased with funding from the Baker County Friends of the Library and a grant from the Oregon State Library's Ready to Read grant program. It cost about $3,500.
"We sought this station out in response to parental requests," Perry Stokes, library director, said in a press release.
The computer was set up earlier this month, and it's located right across from the front desk near the children's section.
"The day we put it out kids were just drawn to it," said Melissa Shafer, children's librarian.
The station features a colorful keyboard with color-coded keys — different colors define vowels, consonants and numbers — and a mouse designed for smaller hands.
There are also two kid-friendly headphones decorated with animals. (They fit well on adult heads, too.)
"We have two sets of headphones attached so another child or parent can listen to the same program," Stokes said.
The ELS programs cover seven areas: reading, math, science, social studies writing, arts and music and reference.
"One of the library's primary missions is to help parents start building literacy skills during the critical learning years of infancy through early elementary school," Stokes said. "Today, one's literacy skill set involves not only how to access information through books, but through computer technology as well. It's important to have a balance."
The content, he said, has been evaluated by early childhood specialists, educators and family-focus groups, and annual updates will keep content current and relevant.
"Particularly attractive to children are programs tied in with popular culture, like 'Sesame Street' or 'Dora the Explorer,' " he said.
He said 35 percent of public libraries in the United States and Canada now have ELS systems.
"This ELS in Baker is a kind of pilot project to see how kids and parents like it," Stokes said. "It should help use gather usage data we can include on grant applications to then get additional units in our branch libraries."
He said anyone who wishes to contribute toward funding for additional units can donate to the Baker County Friends of the Library, Attn: ELS Fund, 2400 Resort St., Baker City, OR 97814.