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Beth Stafford of Shelby reads her children's book, Chin Up Chinchilla, as part of the Mansfield Richland County Public Library's virtual storytime series.

MANSFIELD -- The library may be closed, but kids can still enjoy a free storytime session multiple times each week.

Starting March 24, the Mansfield Richland County Public Library uploaded videos of outreach coordinator Deborah Dubois reading a children’s book on its website every Tuesday and Thursday at 10:30 a.m.

The library will also be releasing a weekly Facebook video of a local author reading his or her children’s book. 

“In this uncertain time, I think it’s really important that they have a little bit of normalcy in their life," Dubois said. “It also gives the moms and dads a little bit of a break.”

Community outreach coordinator Jessica Ney said the virtual storytime series will allow families to continue enjoying storytime, while also spotlighting local authors. 

“I thought it was a great opportunity. I was really excited when (Ney) reached out,” said Beth Stafford, who kicked off the local author series with her book “Chin Up Chinchilla.” 

The book follows the story of a little hedgehog trying to determine what might be making his friend, the chinchilla, feel blue. Stafford, a mother and Shelby resident, wrote the book to help children understand the concept of empathy. She felt the concept was more important now than ever.

“This is a time when people really need to empathize with each other and care about each other,” Stafford said. “If we can put ourselves in other people’s shoes and try to understand why someone might be feeling scared or sad and react lovingly, knowing that we’ve experienced these emotions ourselves, I think that would go a long way in helping ”

Reading aloud to children has been shown to improve literacy and language skills.

“They get a lot of benefits from hearing stories," Dubois said. "They get early literacy skills, they learn vocabulary. They learn how the language in books works.”

For more storytime videos, visit the Mansfield Richland County Public Library's website and Facebook page. For more educational resources for kids, check out the library's blog

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