Today I got a table top puppet theater for our children's department. I decided to purchase this item after attending a class at the Public Library Association conference in Philadelphia held in March. This class explored the concept of learning through play. Children use play as a way to express themselves, learn the meaning of new words and other early literacy skills. Play helps children think and express themselves symbolically: a stick becomes a magic wand, a box becomes a car or a rocket ship. Play gives children the opportunity to act out real life situations and practice problem solving through using their imagination.
I quietly watched the first children play with the theater. A young boy named Bruce decided that he wanted to do a show, which he announced was called, "The King and the Frog". This involved a lot of fighting between the king and the frog. The queen warned the king to stay away from the mean frog. Later the king said, "Ow! that frog bit me. You were right Queen, I should stay away from that frog!" I think that this may be more entertainment for me than is good, because I shouldn't laugh out loud while sitting at my desk, this makes patrons look at me curiously.
Later Bruce's younger sister did a show with a queen, a wicked witch and a baby. The story included the queen giving birth to the baby then the witch stealing it so she could eat it! The guard came and stabbed the witch and rescued the baby. Then they got married and lived happily ever after. Looking at this sweet little girl you wouldn't have guessed that she would tell a story with such violence.
When the family was getting ready to leave the little girl said to her mom, "Can we get one of those puppet things?" This may be the best compliment I could have received. It totally made my day to know that they enjoyed their time at the library today and that maybe they practiced some early literacy skills without even knowing it.