The view of the forest surrounding the James City County Library is being enhanced with the addition of some new nature-inspired sculptures inside the building.
The Rotary Clubs of James City County, the Historic Triangle and Williamsburg, which together comprise Rotary International District 7600, gave the Williamsburg Regional Library a grant last summer to commission two tree sculptures to be placed in the play area at the James City County location.
The James City County Library play area opened last June as part of an initiative to recognize and foster the role play has in childhood literacy, particularly for pre-school aged children.
The area includes a pretend kitchen area, model trains, dolls and other toys that encourage imaginative play, as well as soft seating for parents, guardians and caretakers.
“Play is such an important aspect of literacy,” said Sandy Towers, youth services director for Williamsburg Regional Library. “[The play area] is a way to have the kids enjoy the library and boost their early literacy at the same time.”
The relationship between play and literacy is supported by the Public Library Association and backed by several national studies, Towers said. Play is among five activities – the other four are talking, singing, reading and writing – identified as crucial to developing childhood literacy.
Once it was installed, library staff discussed the possibility of theming the new play area and settled on a Virginia forest motif to complement the library’s striking view of the surrounding wooded areas.
Williamsburg Regional Library Director Genevieve Owens learned about the work of NatureMaker Steel Art Trees, a company based out of California, while at a national library conference and was immediately taken with the look of the metal sculptures on display there.
“She fell in love with the idea of the kids reading and learning and playing under these magical trees,” Towers said.
The $15,000 grant from the Rotary Clubs made it possible for the library to commission two of the trees, and the sculptures were finally installed last month.
Though the trees fulfill a purpose as a decorative element in the library, they also serve as a functional hub for library activities. Beginning in February, members of the Rotary Clubs will come to the library once a month to participate in “Rotary Reads,” a story time and craft activity program under the branches of the trees.
“[The trees] are not just to look at,” Towers said. “They’re an integral part of the space and teaching early literacy.”
Library staff are hopeful the trees will remain a focal point for organized activities in the play area, as well as continuing to inspire creative play for the children who visit the play space.
“The response to the play area has been so positive. It’s become a destination for caregivers to interact and for children to interact,” Towers said. “The trees just add to that atmosphere of wonder and fun.”
The James City County play area and a similar play area at the Williamsburg Regional Library were both funded by a grant from the Friends of Williamsburg Regional Library.