DANIEL CLIFTON • PICAYUNE EDITOR
MARBLE FALLS — When Colt Elementary School librarian Lenore Weihs asked a group of fifth-graders who wanted to knit, several hands shot up as voices called out, “Me, me” and “I do, I do.”
Boys and girls tried to get one of the four spots at the knitting table tucked away in a side room in the library.
That’s what triggered all the excitement, not who wanted to go outside for recess, or who wanted another piece of pizza or anything else one would typically think would draw such a strong reaction from elementary students.
“They love it,” Weihs said. “And it’s boys and girls. All across the spectrum.”
Knitting isn’t what one typically thinks about when it comes to a school library. Usually, it’s books and reading. Now to be sure, the Colt library contains quite a few books, and kids line up to check them out.
“Our main focus here is reading,” Weihs said. “Everything really revolves around reading.”
But libraries of the 21st century are different than those 20, 30 or 40 years ago. Students still hunker down and read, but they also stack cups, work on puzzles, identify the pieces of a computer — and knit.
“This is part of learning,” Weihs said about the knitting. “There is a lot of research that has shown that when kids work with their hands, such as knitting, and develop those motor skills, it helps in all academics.”
These types of activities help develop new neural pathways or further develop ones already in a child’s brain.
The kids don’t just get to knit and do other activities in the library. Weihs offers these “makerspace” options every other week. On other weeks, she teaches lessons.
Though she offers knitting, Weihs is by no means a master knitter herself.
“I didn’t know anything about knitting,” she confessed after somebody recommended it as an option. But instead of using knitting needles, students use plastic looms. The devices come in several versions, but they all sport small plastic “posts” around which the students weave the yarn into patterns.
As a group of four kids worked the looms, Weihs urged them to push on, even if it seemed challenging at first.
“Soon, you’ll have that pattern down,” she said. “You’ll be opening new pathways in your brain.”
Knitting and similar activities also help students concentrate.
“And they get to see their success,” Weihs said holding up one of 13 knitted hats and scarves the students have made this fall.
The students are donating the knitwear to the Highland Lakes Family Crisis Center — another lesson, Weihs said. Each of the students had a hand in making the 13 items.
“We talk a lot about helping out the community,” she said. “And one of the ways we help is by giving back. Some of the kids would say, ‘I’d like one of these (hats).’ Which led to the conversation that the best gifts are ones you’d like to get. Which led to the discussion about being a part of the community and giving to it.”
Since it was the first time she’d offered knitting, Weihs only opened it up to third- through fifth-graders. But in the spring, she plans to let the younger students try it.
“So we’ll start making things for next year,” she said. “Our No. 1 focus is reading, but this is one of the ways to keep kids interested and get them involved beyond their own world.”