Children have been entertained and educated by variety shows for generations.
Programs such as Sesame Street, Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood, Today’s Special, Barney and Blippi are some of the most beloved.
Now, thanks to the creative and talented minds of the Jackson County Public Library children’s department staff, there is a new one to add to that list — Kidz Korner.
Available on the library’s YouTube channel, the new virtual program is an interactive show featuring skits, music, dancing and movement, puppet characters and even stop-motion animation.
The show is geared toward children ages 2 to 7 but is fun for all ages, said Lola Snyder, head of youth services.
On the first Friday of each month, a new episode will be available for children and families to stream and watch at home for free.
The theme of the first episode, which aired earlier this month, is pandemic etiquette and focuses on handwashing, social distancing and wearing masks.
Kids will laugh and have fun but also learn about letters, numbers and colors, Snyder said.
Featured in each episode is a story, a song and even a healthy snack recipe for families to make.
Episodes will run close to 30 minutes and are created by staff members Stephanie Sluder, Nikki Axsom, Natalie Smith, Chelsea Scott, Snyder and Jason White.
Kidz Korner is another way the library is continuing to carry out its mission of “Connect, Learn and Grow” and focusing on early literacy even during the challenges created by COVID-19.
“Once we open up again fully and people start coming back to the library, we will have less time, so we wanted to experiment to see if we could do it,” Snyder said. “And we discovered that we can.”
The program was White’s idea. With two young kids of his own, he knows a thing or two about finding ways to keep children entertained and making learning fun.
“I grew up watching Mister Rogers and Sesame Street and had always thought it would be cool to do a similar style show since I began working at the library,” he said. “COVID hit, and of course, all programs went virtual.”
White noticed a lot of the library’s programs were more instructional and seemed to have a classroom-type setting. He thought it was time to do something different.
“I thought a fun, educational, more TV show-type program might be needed,” he said.
White brought up the idea to his coworkers, and they loved it.
“They all jumped on board with it, and Kidz Korner was born,” he said. “It has been awesome that they are willing to take on extra work for an idea I had. I thank them and want them to know that they are very much appreciated.”
As head of the department, Snyder said she wants to encourage her staff to be creative and give them opportunities to develop their own ideas to better serve library patrons and the community.
White came up with a basic outline for the show with skits and different segments. He also had the idea the show should have its own theme song and regular characters.
When it was time to begin work on the pilot episode, he did some of the puppet work and was featured on the number segment using blocks to count to the featured number.
There are several goals White hopes to achieve with Kidz Korner, including education, interaction and engagement. He also wants the show to be encouraging and promote diversity.
When needed or appropriate, the show can be a way to address important topics in a nonbiased educational way that kids can understand, he said.
The ideas for the show are endless, from addressing feelings to having a good time by taking dance breaks. Future topics to be explored include the importance of reducing, reusing and recycling, dealing with anger and the importance of sharing.
“We want children to feel that this show is something they can turn to for fun, learning and even answers to their questions,” he said. “Who knows what the future holds, but there are many things we can and want to touch on.”
Creating the show has been a learning experience for all involved.
“Almost everyone on the team knows video editing now,” Snyder said. “I think the programs are only going to get better.”
They are able to incorporate a green screen to have different backgrounds and do nearly all of the recording and editing on their phones.
Sluder does video production and even wrote and performs the theme song on the ukulele. She also is writing the stories featured in the episodes so there are no copyright issues.
She started to learn how to edit videos in January 2020, but when the library shut down in March, it has become the bulk of her job.
“My coworkers and I have joked how we’ve become YouTubers,” she said. “I never thought I would gain this much editing experience in such a short amount of time. Because of this job, I have learned so much, and it has been very rewarding to see how much experience I have gained as well as my coworkers.”
Snyder said she continues to be amazed by her staff.
“We have a lot of talent, and it all fits together,” she said. “Everyone has their own ideas of what they want to do for the show.”
The project is truly a team effort, White said.
“We all work well together, and we all have the same goal to put out the best product we can, so this whole show would not be possible without everyone’s hard work,” he said.
Sluder said so far, they’ve had good reactions to Kidz Korner and a lot more views than other virtual programs.
“We want young children to learn in a fun environment with familiar faces,” she said. “We hope more and more will come to recognize us in each episode as well as some of the regular puppets, making this virtual program something they will look forward to and become super excited when they hear the theme song come on.”
Library staff members are busy creating quality programming, and White encourages people to watch and share not only Kidz Korner but all of the library’s virtual programs.
They include Foodie Families, Storytime, Curious Kids, Tech Tuesday, Masterpiece Makers, Friday Firsts, Kids in Motion, Time Travels, Going Places and Curious Communities. There also are virtual book discussion groups and a creative writing group. The library currently is open for grab-and-go services and will be conducting the annual Summer Learning Program this year.
Snyder said virtual programming will remain in place through at least the end of the summer, but some in-person programs, such as yoga, will be offered in local parks for social distancing purposes.
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To watch the pilot episode of the Jackson County Public Library’s new virtual Kids Korner program, visit and subscribe to the library’s YouTube channel at youtube.com/user/MyJCLibrary or visit the library’s Facebook page at facebook.com/MyJCLibrary.
For information or to sign up for any of library’s virtual programs, visit myjclibrary.evanced.info/signup/calendar.