These playspaces, according to a press release for the event, are unique among traditional U.S. children’s libraries.
Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney, William Penn Foundation Board Chair Dr. Janet Haas, Knight Foundation Philadelphia Program Director Patrick Morgan and President and Director of the Free Library of Philadelphia Siobhan A. Reardon were all on hand at South Philadelphia’s Whitman Library Monday afternoon for the ribbon-cutting ceremony for the library’s new Play-and-Learn Space in the children’s section. The space features a climbing tower for children to play on. The Free Library also added similar play spaces at the Cecil B. Moore Library in Sharswood and the Wyoming Library in Feltonville.
“We are thrilled to be celebrating not only the opening of this Play and Learn Space, but also the new transformative spaces now open at our Cecil B. Moore library in North Philadelphia and our Wyoming Library,” Reardon said at the event. “The mission of the Free Library of Philadelphia is to advance literacy, guide learning and inspire curiosity, and one of the reasons these new spaces are so incredible is they do all three of those things.”
Whitman Library, like all Philadelphia libraries, is “not your grandmother’s library anymore,” Reardon said. “We know that to best support our city’s children, we must innovate, finding new ways to bolster literacy.” According to Reardon, research shows that one of the best ways to accomplish literacy and learning skills is through play.
“These play spaces align nicely with the work that the city has been doing to expand opportunities for our children, particularly with PHL Pre-K and the citywide Read by Fourth campaign,” said Kenney at the event. “Creating safe, welcoming library spaces that encourage language development is a powerful way to serve this mission.”
These playspaces, according to a press release for the event, are unique among traditional U.S. children’s libraries and are designed to encourage language development, motor skills, and creative play — the building blocks with which young children form and grow the pre-literacy skills they need to become school-ready. The climbing walls, perching towers, nooks and tunnels, magnetic surfaces with large letter magnets, and reading alcoves inside shelving units are intended to serve as fun and interactive learning spaces unlike other spaces neighborhood children encounter. They were designed by architecture firm Digsau and Studio Ludo, a play-focused nonprofit, and outfitted with materials fabricated by Erector Sets, Inc. Staff from Smith Playground have trained key library staff in how to best use these spaces to promote free play and learning.