I read recently that surveys of the Los Angeles-Orange County region show that almost a quarter of our adult population lacks a high school diploma.

While Orange County itself probably has a higher average of high school graduates, this means that there is a great need for self-learning if people are to qualify for the jobs that can make this region stronger. Much of this learning, for everything from basic literacy to reading programs for all ages, is available at our public libraries.

One of the regular children's programs at the Mesa Verde and Dungan libraries in Costa Mesa involves playing with blocks — Duplos or Legos. I have been reporting on this for some time but wasn't sure about the educational value of these toys. So I finally looked at several articles, one of which is "Manipulatives: Tools for Active Learning" on the http://www.earlychildhoodnews.com website.

The article explains that children learn the most when they are actively participating in the learning process. "Active learning encompasses the following educational areas — emotional, social, cognitive and physical."

Emotional learning is strengthened when playing with these blocks, because these "manipulative materials are predictable and reliable. Every time you act on them in a certain way, they respond the same way."

Socially, children learn to make friends and cooperate. Cognitively, a child learns relationships of pieces. Blocks give opportunities to learn about physical science and gain experience in "problem solving, creative thinking, spatial relations, decision making, observation, sorting, categorizing, estimating — all essential skills for later success in science."

As for physical learning, large and small muscles get used when children build with blocks. Blocks also help children develop eye-hand coordination.

The article lists many other materials that can develop these skills, including cooking utensils, bottle caps, cardboard tubes, sewing cards, and nuts and bolts. It addresses "art area" items, like fingerpaints, markers, ribbons, thread spools and many of the items used in craft programs.

OK. That was another question I was going to ask — "Why craft programs at the library?" Now I have a better understanding of what our children's programs do to promote education. I hope you do too.

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At the Costa Mesa/Donald Dungan Library

Because the Costa Mesa/Donald Dungan Library was closed for repairs during the regular Summer Reading Program this year, it is holding this popular series of activities for children and teens during August.

If you haven't sampled the fare yet, now is your chance to do so.

From 11 a.m. to noon Monday, Galyn Gorg brings her World Dance program. Just as it sounds, she features dance styles from all over the globe, showing the uniqueness of each region as well as common threads. It should be enjoyable for all ages. This free program is interactive.

Every Tuesday between 3 and 5 p.m., the Dungan Library brings out its collection of Duplo toys. Children and their families are welcome to join in. Bring your toddlers too.

Every Thursday at 2 p.m. is Family Storytime. The children's librarian will read stories, sing songs and supervise a craft at the end. Participants are invited to stay afterward to play with the toys and socialize. Family Storytime is free and no registration is required. Call (949) 646-8845 for further information.

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At the Mesa Verde Library

The dogs are coming back, and they want your child to read to them.

PAWS (Pets are Wonderful Support) is a pet-assisted therapy program allowing children, who may be nervous about reading to a human, to read to a dog. Pre-registration is required. The event is from 11 a.m. to noon Saturday. Call (714) 546-5274.

Lego Wednesday continues at this library from 3:30 to 4:30 p.m. And from 11 a.m. to noon Aug. 27, a Pre-School Storytime and Craft program will take place.

And of course, if you need instruction with that new eReader you got for your birthday, call the Mesa Verde Library for a 9:15 a.m. or 2:15 p.m. appointment on Wednesdays and Thursdays.

Remember that all OCPL libraries will be closed for the Labor Day holiday on Monday, Sept. 2.

MARY ELLEN GODDARD produced this column on behalf of the Friends of Costa Mesa Libraries, the Costa Mesa Library Foundation and the three Costa Mesa branches of the OC Public Libraries.