Art museum, main library collaborate on sensory literacy program for toddlers


Books are for reading, art is for viewing — and sometimes touching, especially for little children. So the Toledo-Lucas County Public Library and the Toledo Museum of Art have collaborated on a sensory literacy program that will help toddlers learn to read.

The whole point, of course, is to enhance how children learn in a two-part multisensory effort to bring to life books and art.

The program, “ToddlerTime Tours,” begins next week, with 18-to-36-month-old toddlers and their parents hearing a story at 10:30 a.m. at either the Maumee Branch Library on Monday, or the Main Library on Thursday. Toddlers and parents on Feb. 13 at 6 p.m. then will visit the museum, where they will see a piece of art with the same theme as the book, and February’s book and art theme is about puppies.

Mary Rava Miller, manager of the Children’s Library at the Main Branch, said before children learn to read words, they read stories through images.

“Often those illustrations and pictures are the key to them developing an interest in books and language,” she said. Then that experience is expanded on by “introducing children to great works of art in the process.”

Depending on the interest, Kathy Danko-McGhee, the Emma Leah Bippus director of education at the museum, said the program could expand beyond March, April, and May. Because of the toddlers' short attention span, each "tour," as they are called, will only last about 20 minutes, she said.

"The art works that will be the focus of each tour are pieces that we know little children like," Ms. Danko-McGhee said. Those preferences include bold colors, shiny objects, animals, and children.

"Knowing what children like is a great place to begin the learning process. To extend upon that, we will be giving the children items to touch that are related to the work of art, such as a piece of lace or silk," she said. Ms. Danko-McGhee also said the goal is to build children's vocabulary, which helps with reading comprehension later on.

This first-time collaboration is the result of both long-time Toledo institutions' directors' desire.

"[Director of the Toledo Museum of Art] Brian Kennedy and [library director] Clyde Scoles had an interest in collaborating," said Jim Funk, manager of institutional and community initiatives for the library.

"And when I joined the staff we approached the museum, and the idea was suggested by the museum," Mr. Funk said. "Another thing they've done is trained all of our children and team librarians in visual literacy techniques, and we are working to incorporate those techniques into our children's library."

To register and more information, visit the museum or the library Web sites:​learn/​toddler-time-tours or​programs (enter keyword "toddlertime" in the search engine), or call the museum at 419-255-8000, or the library, at 419-259-5200.

Contact Rose Russell at or 419-724-6178.