During the week, the children’s section at the Philip S. Miller Library becomes a popular diversion that both entertains and introduces children to reading. It’s the time when Mr. Cliff, and his library colleagues, promote early literacy by bringing books to life during their interactive storytimes.
Cliff Davidson, better known as ‘Mr. Cliff,’ came to Colorado in 2005. Upon finishing up his Masters in Library Science from the University of Oklahoma, he began to look with his wife Tami at moving out of the state.
After a possible job offer came up for her in Littleton, Colorado he began eagerly applying for jobs in Denver, Colorado Springs and Castle Rock. During his prospecting, he came across a post for an opening for a Children’s Librarian at the Philip S. Miller Library.
“We had wanted to move out of Oklahoma and liked Colorado,” recalled Cliff Davidson, Children’s Librarian at the Philip S. Miller Library in Castle Rock. They had visited enough times that being near the Rocky Mountains felt like home.
“I finally applied and just happened to get the job here,” he said.
A decade later, Davidson still enjoys using his enthusiasm, guitar and vast knowledge of library functions to make the local library a place people want to visit for more than just books.
“I do different things at the library; a lot with the public,” Davidson commented. Doing a variety of things includes not only sharing his knowledge of literature, research and reference methods, it also lets him express his silly side when he actively introduces children to early reading each week.
“Storytimes are a fun way I get to promote reading skills before children are really learning to read,” he said. “There’s actually a lot of planning that goes on to promote those things when we read to them.”
While parents and kids who attend may think Mr. Cliff’s dancing and singing is just to entertain the kids, his method of reading is more complicated than that. “We do simple things like pointing to words–as they are read–to let them see and understand that the words in the text connect,” Davidson added.
Although Davidson may be best known for his lively storytime hours, he likewise makes time for encouraging older generations of readers. “I’m involved with book clubs for different ages like Junior Page Turners,” Davidson continued. “We have first through third-grade book clubs all the way up to teen book clubs that meet once a month.”
Because he is invested in the library’s mission to be an advocate for literacy and lifelong learning. So any project remotely related to learning is game for him.
“We have a program called ‘Bark for Books’ where kids come in and read to a dog,” he added. “The dogs are trained to be calm and listen and are in turn a comfort to kids who might be shy or are struggling with reading.”
Like those needed programs, he has future plans to reach out to children with other differences. “A colleague and I are putting together a storytime next year for kids with special needs,” Through life experience, he understands that there are parents who might not feel comfortable attending the activity.
“We have three children, 10, 8 and 3 and my middle son has autism,” said Davidson. So he knows that it is hard for his son, and other children, to participate in a traditional storytime.
“We certainly welcome any family to a story time but we know that they are busy and crowded and some families can’t do those with their kids because of sensory processing or because they can’t be quiet or sit still,” he said.
Modeled after a program at another Douglas County Library in Highlands Ranch, they are scheduled to start the new storytime next year. “My colleague, Colleen, will have a storytime that is soothing and calm with softer lighting,” he said.
His hour will instead be geared toward the kids who can’t sit still. “I picture my storytimes being a little loud and crazy with kids wheeling around in their chairs, while I play my guitar.”
Because Davidson’s vision for the Philip S. Miller Library is to make it a community hub for all, unlike the stereotypes of the old days. “The library isn’t just for reading anymore and we definitely don’t do as much shushing as we used to,” he laughed. “The library has really become more of a gathering place–for all walks of life–that people use to get together and interact…we want that.”