Four-year-old Wyatt Gebhardt grabbed a favorite stuffed animal and plopped down on the large green cushion in the center of Bud Werner Memorial Library's children's section Tuesday morning.
For the next hour or so, Wyatt sat and listened with seven other youngsters as animated assistant youth services coordinator Alison Lambart read three books with the excitement of a child on Christmas morning.
From "Snowballs" to "Do Donkeys Dance?" Lambart read slowly, making sure to face the pages of the book outward for all the children to see.
The attention spans of toddlers often run short, and some of the children attending Tuesday's "Storytime for Toddlers" quickly become distracted by the thousands of children's books surrounding them and the stuffed animals strewn across the floor.
But distractions are OK here, Lambart said.
"We just want to foster a love of reading and (show) that the library is a great place to come," she said. "It's great socialization, too. Lots of times there's more of that than listening to the stories, but that's OK. We want kids to love coming to the library as much as going to the park."
The library has offered storytimes and other reading programs for as long as Lambart said she could remember, and they remain popular with residents and visiting families.
Tiffany Gebhardt, mother of Wyatt and 2-year-old Waverly, said they almost never miss a week.
"The library is just great at engaging the kids," she said. Attending storytimes is important in fostering a love of reading at a young age and also a great way for her children to meet other kids their age.
And because the children's section is downstairs from the library's main area, kids can feel free to play and socialize without disturbing others, she said.
"It really serves a great purpose for the community," Gebhardt said. "We definitely try to keep it part of our schedule, it's well worth it."
The library continues to expand its extensive programs, with a new "Babytime" program to begin Jan. 31. All the programs are free, and tourists are welcome to drop-in with their children while in Steamboat.
Babytime targets parents and babies up to 20 months old. The program, headed by youth services librarian Currie Meyer, is aimed at enhancing a baby's natural love of language, song, rhythm, rhyme and movement. Two sessions of the program will run on Saturdays for five consecutive weeks in January and February, and in March and April.
"This is an age we haven't really targeted," Lambart said.
Storytimes for toddlers ages 18 months to 3 years is every Tuesday from 10 to 10:30 a.m. and from 11 to 11:30 a.m. Storytimes for preschoolers is every Wednesday from 10 to 10:30 a.m. and from 11 to 11:30 a.m.
Themes for storytimes constantly change, Lambart said, and puppet shows and music often are incorporated into the half-hour sessions. Lambart and Meyer also draw pictures on the hands of children at the end of each storytime.
"It's just a lot of fun," Lambart said.
Carol Fisher, a grandmother in Steamboat Springs, agreed.
"Tuesday is grandma day, and Matai always looks forward to grandma day and the library," said Fisher, who brings her 4-year-old grandson Matai and her one-year-old granddaughter Natasha to toddler storytime almost weekly.
"It's been a wonderful introduction to books for Matai," Fisher said. "He loves to check out books and bring them back in and put them in the depository. Natasha likes to sit on the rocking chair and play with the other kids."