Charlottesville welcomes first ever toy library

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CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (NEWSPLEX) -- Kids can now checkout toys in Charlottesville.

The toy library is a pilot program launched by the Madison House at the University of Virginia, in collaboration with the Gordon Avenue Library.

Studying urban planning at UVA, David Birkenthal led the initiative to bring Charlottesville it's very first toy library.

"Playing as a child is really good for developing and learning different skills and learning social skills," said Birkenthal. "But for a lot of kids, especially in the Charlottesville area, having access to those sort of toys that help with that kind of play isn't available."

The Madison House is using toys to level the playing field. Birkenthal approached Glynis Welte from Gordon Avenue Library with the idea.

"He proposed the idea of a toy library, which is great because toys are so important in cognitive development and early literacy skills," said Welte.

The free toys are available for checkout with a library card and kids aged two to about 11 years old can enjoy them at home for up to three weeks.

"They provide us with the toys, but their volunteers are also very hard working and clean the toys after each use," said Welte. "Which is an amazing thing that makes this possible."

It wouldn't be possible without funding, which was the most challenging part of the project.

"We were able to apply for a grant through the Public Service Programming Board," said Madison Lewis with the Madison House. "They gave us money and we were able to buy a bunch of toys."

Of the $2,500 grant, $2,000 went toward purchasing the 50 toys now ready for checkout and the rest toward organizing containers and a catalogue checkout system.

The program is also designed to encourage reading. For example if a child checks out a toy train, the librarian will perhaps pair the book "Thomas The Tank Engine" with it for check out.

The toy library is showing kids that having fun isn't hard when you've got a library card.

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