Children's librarian Laura Antolin explains the post office game at a Library play date in December

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Getting a great start in Kindergarten can set the stage for the rest of a child’s education. Kindergarten LEAP (Literacy Education At Play) was created by Evanston Public Library staff to help District 65’s youngest students build literacy and social skills through innovative play scenarios. Coordinated by children’s outreach librarian Laura Antolin, the program provides a wide range of interesting and fun things to do based around literacy.

Children experience Kindergarten LEAP in two ways: ‘Play Dates’ at school during library time, and ‘Play Dates’ for families at the Library itself.

“The idea is that there is a whole community of people who invite the child to have a rich literacy experience,” says library assistant Martha Meyer.

District 65 school librarians conduct Play Dates for Kindergarten students during library time. As a group, students read books related to four units: Pizza, Construction, Laundry, and Veterinarian. Then they play – using newly learned vocabulary to take pizza orders, take a two-dimensional plan into a three-dimensional space, sort laundry or write prescriptions for sick pets. All materials and training are provided by the Evanston Public Library.

Play Dates for families take place on Saturdays in the Community Room at the Main Library, 1703 Orrington Ave. Kindergarteners and their parents are invited to play a fun-filled, literacy based game of “Post Office.”

Participants learn how to address envelopes to five different animals to which they are introduced by Ms. Antolin – Penguin, Tiger, Monkey, Dog and Lion. They can look at signs on the walls showing them how to spell the animal names, or put the animal’s initials, like “P” or “D.”  A flurry of activity follows when the children deliver the envelopes to the the stuffed animals’ mailboxes set up throughout the library. For these lucky kindergarteners, a trip to the library is much more than just reading or listening to books.

“We try to embrace our students with rich literacy support. Every kindergartener should be introduced to the library in multiple ways,” says Ms. Meyer.

The Kindergarten LEAP program is funded and supported by Foundation 65, a non-profit organization that funds projects that expand, enrich, and complement educational opportunities for students, staff and community in Evanston-Skokie District 65.