Young library patrons say, “Goodbye, Miss Linda!”
By Ed Karvoski Jr., Contributing Writer
Shrewsbury – After 14 years at the Shrewsbury Public Library, Linda Johnson Dashnaw will retire as head of children's services.
She recalled leading her last Children's Room Story Time the first day of school.
“I did the back-to-school story time and as I did my final little song, which is a goodbye song, I waved my hand, and I started to tear up,” she said. “It was very emotional because I knew that would be the last time I would do the story time.”
A lifelong Shrewsbury resident, she felt comfortable at the town's library since an early age.
“I always loved coming to the library and reading,” she said. “I was very studious and reading was a big part of my childhood.”
Prior to joining the library staff in 1998, Johnson Dashnaw taught grades two through five at Coolidge and Paton elementary schools for seven years. After a couple years off from work when her third child was born, she taught preschool for 12 years at Lilliput Early Childhood Center.
Throughout her years at the library, she got frequent reminders of her time teaching.
“I'se seen children who I taught at Paton or Coolidge and they'se now bringing their children to the library – and they'se not even babies anymore; these are grown children,” she said with a laugh. “It's the circle of life.”
Of the many library programs she has conducted, the story times have been her favorite.
“My granddaughter, Emma, attended my story time, and that was truly a blessing,” she said. “I love working with the kids and watching them; I always have. That's why I went into education. Even though later in my life I'se been a librarian, I'se always felt I was an educator, too.”
As both an educator and librarian, Johnson Dashnaw understands the process of learning to read begins before children start school.
“I feel so strongly about early literacy,” she said. “Once children are in school, they have the teachers there to help them learn to read. But we as parents and as librarians can help with the early skills: reading, writing, singing, talking and playing. If you work with your child on those skills before they enter school, then they'sl naturally become early readers. Once they become good readers, then they become good learners for the rest of their life.”
Since last December, the Children's Room features a helpful resource for early literacy: the Preschool Computer Center. Two computers have touch-screen functionality and age-appropriate pre-literacy software. A sign at the center proclaims, “A place of discovery, learning and early literacy for our young readers.”
“The computer center was a donation from the Shrewsbury Federal Credit Union and we are so grateful,” said Johnson Dashnaw. “It's utilized over and over again every day. There's always somebody sitting there and enjoying it.”
She also thinks older generations can learn from the preschoolers.
“The little ones aren's afraid of this technology, like some of the older people who are sometimes afraid they'sl do something wrong with the computer – and I's including myself,” she said. “The children just go right over there, get on a chair, and they know exactly what to do. They'se very computer savvy.”
Johnson Dashnaw said the main reason she decided to retire was to have more time to spend with her family.
“Being a grandmother a second time around made me realize that you can make money, but you can's make time,” she said.
A retirement reception will be held in the Children's Room of the library Friday, Sept. 28, from 3 to 6 p.m., with a brief presentation at 4 p.m.
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