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It's 10:30 in the morning, and more than 25 adults sit cross-legged on the floor around a big, colorful rug depicting Humpty Dumpty and a cow jumping over the moon. For half an hour, they sing nursery rhymes, wave scarves, shake bells and clap their hands. They are all participants in Baby and Me, a program at CLP - Main, and the number of babies in the room rivals the number of grown-ups. In truth, these storytimes are meant to benefit parents more than the little ones.

"We're not necessarily doing the rhymes for the children," says Georgene DeFilippo, the Library's Youth Services Coordinator. "They might enjoy the puppets you use, but the Library's Baby and Me program teaches parents different songs, stories and nursery rhymes they can sing and recite to their child to help with early learning skills and development."

The Library's Children's staff understands that parents are their child's first teachers. Research shows that talking to your child from birth is a key factor in language learning and development.

Patte Kelley, head of the Children's Department at CLP - Main, notes that even the simplest nursery rhyme will help a child learn to speak and read later in life. "Just interacting with a child is a way to instill pre-literacy skills. You're not teaching them to read, but you're giving them the skills that they're going to need later when they do start to read." She adds that rhymes in particular are useful for pre-literacy skill building, because, "later when you start learning to read it's easier to decode the words because you can sound them out in your head."

In between games and songs, parents find time during Baby and Me to interact with each other. The program acts as a social opportunity for busy parents to meet and talk about their children, which can be reassuring for new parents. "It's sometimes helpful for parents to see the variety in the development of the kids," says Kelley.

>> To enhance family learning opportunities, Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh has designed a variety of programs, activities and resources especially for infants and toddlers to build a foundation for school success. To find a program at your library visit the Events Calendar at www.carnegielibrary.org.

Photos of Baby and Me participants