As any good bibliophile worth his or her salt would tell you, books have a value beyond the obvious. One of those values, among many others that might be helpful during this time of collectively staying home, is that books can assist people in communicating with one another. How, you may ask, would a book help to keep people in touch? You might be anchored in the physical realm to the living space, but if you have a book, you can connect with many, many things, including other people.

The folks at University of Findlay’s Mazza Museum know the value of a good children’s book in creating communication of all sorts. Currently, they’re observing Virtual Storytime, where they’ve begun to take kids on a virtual adventure every Tuesday and Thursday with Virtual Story Time videos.

We’ve asked Mazza’s Ann Arbaugh, Administrative Assistant/Accounting Officer; Dan Chudzinski, Museum Curator; Karen George, Senior Director of Advancement; Ben Sapp, the Director of the Museum, and Heather Sensel, the Museum, Education, and Volunteer Coordinator, to virtually huddle around the table and discuss between each other what books and illustrations mean to them, and how they can create worlds for those who enter into their pages.

Why are books so important?

Karen: “One of my favorite quotes from Albert Einstein is ‘Logic will get you from A to B. Imagination will take you everywhere.’ That is exactly what reading does!”

Dan: “Reading enables us to explore faraway lands, to discover distant planets, and to visit realms that exist only in our imaginations. Picture books are not only informative and educational, they provide readers with an excellent source of escapism and a wonderful diversion.”

Ben: “The importance goes much further to something that I don’t know can be explained. The feelings, inspirations and joy that picture books bring to others is special in a different way for each receiving it.”

Ann: “The books and art within books can be a unifying experience for the kids and parents alike. The time at home does allow for focused activities without the distractions and can lead to times of sharing.”

Heather: “The language in picture books is often more complex than the first chapter books that children read, which makes them an excellent source for children to learn the language.”

What about reading to kids?

Ben: “That’s important because it builds a special relationship between the child and the reader. It allows for humor, love and sorrow to be shared in a way that is meaningful to the child.”

Dan: “When read aloud, picture books become a shared experience. The reader and their audience become participants in a narrative that has the potential to change their personal perspectives. The stories often remain with us long after we have closed the book. Simply put, reading to children makes the world a better place.”

So, reading and reading to kids might even help us deal better with our current situation?

Karen: “In the midst of an unprecedented time in history where schools are not in session, businesses are stalled and millions of adults are working from home, yes, books are especially important right now. Parents and family members have more time to read and bond with their ‘possibilities.’”

Ann: “I think books and art are important in times like these because they are somewhat of a universal language and/or an equalizer – everyone can enjoy and laugh at a funny, rhyming story or an exaggerated drawing of their favorite animal. In this time when parents are having to navigate their households, they need as much of a release as the children need. There is no doubt there will be stories to come of this Coronavirus Pandemic and the times people were stuck in their homes. Maybe a new memory will be created during this time of shut down. Perhaps a new love of reading will be developed and a new favorite book will be discovered during these times.”

Dan: “It is normally easy to fall back on the excuse that there simply is not enough time to share a story as frequently as we would like. There is a power in the spoken word, and if there is one thing we will gain from this shared experience of social-distancing, it is that we now have the rare opportunity to direct that time towards creating those experiences for children.”

What should we know about what’s happening at Mazza during the temporary closing?

Dan: “Despite these unprecedented circumstances, the Mazza Museum continues to expand in new and exciting ways. The Museum staff is using this experience to better understand ourselves and our role within the community, so that we may, in turn, better serve our visitors. We continue to communicate with authors and artists on a daily basis to ensure that their artwork and their stories will be waiting for you here, just a few chapters into our future.”

Heather: “We miss our volunteers, students, and visitors so much. Remember, we are all in this together. Utilize our website!”

Karen: “Our entire team is working hard behind the scenes on many important projects. We have an exciting expansion on the horizon, and are still looking forward to breaking ground this year on the Conda STEAM Education Center. This innovative space will combine the art of picture books with science, technology, engineering and math!”

Ben: “Mazza misses our family of volunteers and visitors to our Museum. We look forward to the day when ‘normal’ returns and together, we can share our wonderful resources with those with a love of art from picture books.”

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