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Viewing: Blog Posts Tagged with: Early Literacy, Most Recent at Top [Help]
Results 1 - 25 of 93
1. Painting with Primaries

Our local school is building a Natural Playground, and they are holding several fundraisers. I was recently asked to be part of a Really Good Idea for a fundraiser, which I think would make a fun library program! The idea, which was hatched and hosted by the owner of our local craft shop, was this: local artists would each lead a classroom in painting a large 2-foot square painting which would then be auctioned off.
I was happy to find out that I was chosen to work with the Grade Primary class (here in Nova Scotia that translates to Kindergarten). I went with a big flower for them to paint. I had them in groups of 3 — the painting had seven areas to be painted, and I had each group work on a section. I might be biased, but I love our painting the most. I love the colours and the freedom of expression that 4 & 5 year olds are unafraid to exhibit. I really didn’t paint much at all— I gave them tips, and once had to quickly grab a paintbrush from an over-exuberant artist who was about to turn the whole thing into a big smear.

I started in the classroom with a stack of books and talked to them about art in picture books.  I read Viva Frida by Yuyi Morales to them and we talked about the art in that book. Their teacher had been part of some workshops I did earlier in the school year, and she had them looking closely at the art in picture books, so this group of 4-5 year olds were pretty savvy about examining the pictures. We had a lively discussion about the art and how everyone can do art. I was impressed that they were able to determine the medium, and talk a little about shape and colour.

I love to combine literacy with art lessons, and this project – and a Caldecott honour book – allowed me to do that. We also did a really great painting which will help raise money for a playground that will further their learning in the great outdoors. IMG_1401

So— to turn this into a library program, you could buy several large canvases (you can get them for a pretty decent price at dollar stores these days). Draw the outlines on the canvases, and have your program participants paint them in, using acrylic paint (again, a fairly inexpensive investment at dollar stores). These could hang in the children’s area, could be donated for charity fundraisers, or you could auction them as library fundraisers. Add a few books on art and a few art picture books, and you’ve got yourself a fairly simple, low-cost program that kids will remember each time they see those paintings. Host an art show in your library and you’ve got another program that will draw in the families of the kids who did the paintings. Art and literacy. They make good companions.

The post Painting with Primaries appeared first on ALSC Blog.

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2. Empowering Parents to Increase Literacy in the Home: The PCHP Approach

Since 1965, The Parent Child-Home Program (PCHP) has been providing Guest Bloggerunder-resourced families the necessary skills and tools to help their children thrive in school and life. PCHP’s nationwide network of program sites works with low-income families to ensure that they have the knowledge, skills, and resources to achieve their greatest potential in school and in life. 

Today, we are excited to have Sarah Walzer, CEO of The Parent-Child Home Program. 2015 marked 50 years of service for the PCHP.

1. How did PCHP begin? How has the program’s vision evolved since it was founded?

PCHP was started in 1965 PCHP_Logohorizontal-50years-300x182when educational psychologist Dr. Phyllis Levenstein was asked to develop a program to help reduce the growing number of high school dropouts on Long Island. Based on her research, she concluded that the most effective way to reduce high school dropout rates would be to reach families before their children even entered a classroom and ensure that parents had the knowledge, skills, and materials to prepare their children for school success. With this idea, the model for PCHP was created.

The vision has essentially stayed the same – with PCHP focusing on reaching out to underserved families in under-resourced communities and working with them to strengthen parent-child interaction, support and increase reading and play activities in the home, and build language and learning rich home environments. The biggest change since 1965 is that now we work with families speaking over 50 different languages and almost always with a home visitor who speaks their language. Phyllis could not have imagined that when she first piloted the Program.

2. Can you tell us about the PCHP research-based model structure and how it works?

PCHP is based on an extensive body of research that demonstrates that children who receive rich verbal stimulation in their homes (conversation, reading, and play) come to school with the language, vocabulary, and social-emotional skills they need to be successful. Researchers have demonstrated that by age 3, low-income children have heard 30 million less words than their middle income peers, so we know that too many children do not experience the quality verbal interaction they need to succeed. Parent (primary caregiver)-child interaction is critical to closing this word gap and preparing children for school.

Building on this research, the model PCHP provides two years of PCHP imageintensive, twice-weekly home visits to underserved families when their children are 2 and 3. We match each family with a PCHP early literacy specialist in their community, and most of the time this early literacy specialist shares the family’s cultural background and language. These home visits are for a half-hour, twice-a-week. The half-hour is to make it easy for parents to fit the visits into their schedule and so they can see how little time each day it takes to support their children’s school readiness.

Over the course of the two years, each family receives at least 92 home visits, 46 new, high-quality books and educational toys, as well as curricular guide sheets that provide the family with tips for verbal interaction, skill development, and additional literacy, music, and art activities. The early literacy specialists model for the parents and children together verbal interaction, reading and play activities that are fun and become part of the families’ regular routines.

It is important to note that PCHP’s approach is one of modeling, not teaching; a non-directive, non-didactic approach that builds on the relationship between the home visitor and the family, empowering the parent to be their child’s first and most important teacher.

3. In November 2014, your response to The New York Time’s Article, “To Help Language Skills of Children, a Study Finds, Text Their Parents With Tips-NYTimes,” stated that texting parents with tips is not enough to close the achievement gap. Can you explain what you mean by this?

Texting parents is a great way to remind and teach parents the importance of conversing and reading with your child; however, by itself it will not close the achievement gap for the most under-resourced families. You don’t actually know if the parent receiving the text can read it or read it in the language of your text. You don’t know if they have access to books to read to their children, if they know how to find age-appropriate reading material, and how to read and talk to a young child in a way that builds language and literacy skills.

School readiness is about so much more than just language skills, it is about the social-emotional skill development that comes from playing games that involve taking turns, supporting children while they try increasingly difficult tasks on their own, etc. These are not all things that can be conveyed or demonstrated to parents via text messages. Some families need more support and the PCHP model can provide the needed materials, modeling, and tools for their children’s’ success.

4. After 50 years, what does the research show about families who complete the PCHP program?

The research not only shows that PCHP participants start school ready to succeed, but it also shows that this success continues as they move through school. A new study just released in February highlights the impact that PCHP is having both on kindergarten readiness and on third grade success. This longitudinal study demonstrates significant long-term outcomes for PCHP graduates based on standardized Washington state assessments of kindergarten readiness, English language proficiency, and third grade academic performance. The three key findings from the study show that signifcantly more PCHP graduates

  • started kindergarten better prepared than their peers
  • demonstrated English proficiency in kindergarten
  • scored significantly higher on third grade WA Reading and Math assessments, including above the state average in math.

5. Looking forward, where do you see PCHP headed in the coming PCHP imageeyears? Any projects that you are particularly excited about?

We’re hoping to expand to reach over 10,000 families annually. We want to be able to serve as many families as possible. We recently trained the staff for our second site in Chile, which is the 4th country we have opened sites in. We are currently working in 14 states and would like to see that number grow as well. We were recently selected by the GreenLight Fund Philadelphia to be their newest portfolio program, which will mean a four-year expansion there to reach at least 400 families annually. We are particularly excited about expansions like the one in Philadelphia that involve working with housing authorities to support families in public housing and immigrant organizations to support diverse immigrant populations.

6. How can people get involved or find a PCHP nearby?

You can find a PCHP location nearby by going to our website, www.parent-child.org and using the link “Find a PCHP Near You” to find a list of all of our locations and their contact information. Additionally, there is information on our website about how to support the Program, how to start a site if there is not one in your community, and potential volunteer opportunities. Please be sure to also follow us on social media and sign up for our newsletter to stay in the loop. We constantly have exciting news and events to share, and are always happy to welcome anyone who would like to get involved.

SEW Head ShotSarah Walzer has been the Chief Executive Officer of The Parent-Child Home Program, Inc. since 1997, during which time the Program has grown from reaching 800 families in 5 states to over 7,000 families annually in 14 states. Before joining The Parent-Child Home Program, Sarah Walzer was Counsel to the Assistant Secretary for Legislation of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services where she worked on legislation related to early childhood and domestic violence prevention programs, and the development of crime, substance abuse, and dropout prevention programs for youth. She has presented on The Parent-Child Home Program to many audiences, including the Social Impact Exchange, the Congressional Black Caucus, and the Council of Great City Schools. She serves on the Board of The Petey Greene Program and the Princeton University Bridge Year Advisory Committee. She is a graduate of Princeton University and Harvard Law School.


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3. Creating Spaces that Celebrate Every Child Ready to Read 2

How we serve the youngest of children and their families is, of course, a major priority for children’s librarians.  Besides our services, our spaces can also accommodate each of the major practices of Every Child Ready to Read 2 for our smallest of learners and their grownups.  At this year’s ALSC Charlemae Rollins President’s Program:  Libraries: the Space to Be, we will be discussing President Medlar’s vision of how to bring both big and small ways into our libraries  to enliven spaces to maximize learning outcomes.

Whether you have a grant for space redesign or are just adding a little nook space, there are practical and easy ways to plan for, and then create space for the five practices. In Orlando, we can see and learn from best practices across the nation so that we all can find ways to activate your space for talk, sing, read, write and play practices:  all so essential to young children and their grownups.

First, creating a play space in your library allows for a new type of learning in our spaces:  active, engaged learning that allows children to problem solve and take on the role of learning by doing and being the ‘expert’ in any situation.  Play spaces help families learn together and celebrate their successes as important roles in children’s learning.  It has been documented at the Chicago Public Library that where we have put in play spaces we see families staying up to 40% longer, returning more often, attending more programs and coming together across communities to learn together as families and build friendships.  These all benefit 21st Century’s library goals, and are important for us as we promote our services to stakeholders.

The benefits of play are numerous and the LEGO Foundation spells them out in their Power of Play white paper which cites play as critical to the ‘balanced development of children’.  Play allows children to use their imagination and creativity, and is, at base, a form of communication.  It has been called essential to human development, and the UN calls it a fundamental right of children.  And libraries are proudly joining in as places for play as we embrace learning in its many environments.  Of the five types of play:  Physical Play, Play with Objects, Symbolic Play, Pretend and Socio-Emotional play and Games with Rules,   can you find some easy ways to incorporate play into your spaces and programming?

And what about the other four skills?  Think about ways you can encourage talking in your library.  A library pet goldfish in a bowl with a simple question or prompt about the fish each week, a comparison chart of your height to various animals, bean sprouts growing in baggies on the windows or a whisper tube such as the one Amanda Roberson at Hartford County Public Library, St. Mary’s County Library has installed are all inexpensive, fun and whimsical ways to encourage families to talk with one another.  Close your own eyes and visualize the moment a whispered “I love you” between a parent and child travels all along the talk tube and into the ear, the brain and the heart of the receiving child.  Or consider the thrill families will have upon finding and discovering their bean sprouts have grown since their last visit to you.

Singing happens in story hours all the time: we sing songs, action rhymes, play music and dance, but why leave it for just program time?  What if you had a nursery rhyme or children’s song station and a small, play microphone?  Encourage children and their adults to take turns singing the song of the week.  What a goofy and fun station that can encourage breaking language down into its basic parts.

Reading we know has its foundations in various aspects of ECCR2 such as letter recognition and print awareness.  Add letter toys such as Lakeshore Learning’s Alphabet Apples or their Magnetic alphabet maze into your play areas to help encourage letter recognition.  These toys encourage play with letters and phonemic awareness.  Integrate such toys into your books for a fun, literacy play experience.

Writing:  Dr. Nell Duke talks about the significance of writing in early literacy development, but how can we add this into a physical space?  Think about an easel white board that can be put in your space with accessible markers,  write and wipe lapboards for writing letters in story hours, or a letter writing or post box station.  Sentence start strips are also great ways for children and families to feel ownership in the library and can be an easy way to decorate:  Start a bulletin board with the letters “On my way to the library, I saw….” And then leave sentence strips out for families to complete.  Young children can dictate their sentence or story which can lead to a great bonding experience and fun narrative skills.  Then, add these to your board as a fun and easy way to create a fresh display that is child centered.

Please join President Andrew Medlar at this year’s ALSC Charlemae Rollins President’s Program: Libraries: The Space to Be to learn more from the experts around the country:  folks like you!  National experts in space design and children’s creativity will be side by side for a fascinating panel discussion on creative children’s space.  Best practices for small, medium and large libraries will be showcased in this important look into how space and our programs in libraries transform.

We hope you can join us!

Liz McChesney, Chicago Public Library
Co-chair Charlemae Rollins President Program 2016

Christy Estrovitz, San Francisco Public Library
Co-chair Charlemae Rollins President Program 2016

The post Creating Spaces that Celebrate Every Child Ready to Read 2 appeared first on ALSC Blog.

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4. Begin Your Sensory Storytime Today!

Many librarians that I have talked to are reluctant to start a sensory story time. Familiar refrains that I’ve heard go something like this:  I don’t know the first thing about children with special abilities; I don’t have specialized training; I don’t want to do the wrong thing and upset a child who already has special needs; I didn’t go to library school to do sensory storytimes; don’t I need a really big grant in order to secure materials for something like this?

Much has been written about how to begin a sensory storytime. We won’t cover that here.  There’s plenty of stuff out there for you research, plus we’ve included some references below.  However, you should know that you’re probably already equipped to do a sensory storytime right now!  Joshua Farnum, the play, and active learning specialist at Chicago Public Library has started a string of successful sensory storytimes across the city and is expanding to more branches.  Joshua states, “sensory storytime is a storytime that works for you.  It’s a lot like traditional storytime, but it puts a particular emphasis on repetition, interactive activities, and sensory play. The best way to discover what sensory storytime is all about is to experience it yourself.”  Indeed, a sensory storytime is, after all, just a storytime, with the special touch being the care you take to have things like a schedule, and manipulates  (just to name a couple). With a very basic understanding of the abilities that your patrons exhibit, you will go a long way to making your storytime one in which a child or children with developmental differences can thrive in.

If you’ve ever wondered what people of special abilities need to feel comfortable? Then just ask!  There are plenty of parent groups, cohorts, and organizations who host fairs for children and families who have developmental differences.  Most parents would be happy to talk to you about their kids and what works or doesn’t work for them.  If you have play manipulatives, already in your library, then you probably have a some essential items for some children with special abilities.  You may not have gone to library school to be a sensory storytime librarian, but let’s face it, children with special abilities are on the rise in this country. Many parents of these children don’t feel comfortable in the library because of negative experiences with insensitive staff and or fear of being ostracized by other parents.  By starting a sensory storytime for this group, you fulfill a need and help to serve an already underserved population. Sensory storytimes also foster literacy, engage the senses, and it’s a ton of fun!

Remember it’s for everyone!

Storytime for the Spectrum


Libraries and Autism


ALSC Sensory Storytime Pinterest Board


Sensory Storytime: A (brief) How-To Guide


SPD Foundation



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5. National Library Legislative Day Matters!

National Library Legislative Day, a two-day advocacy event championing libraries and library legislation in Washington, D.C., is taking place from May 2-3 this year. The need to let our elected representatives know how imperative is it to have quality services for young children as well as decent pay for those of us who work with young children, has only grown within the past year.

Two weeks ago, I watched a newly released video series called “The Raising of America.”  It presented updated facts and research regarding the importance of the earliest years in children’s lives as well as historical information regarding childcare in the US.

I was surprised to learn that in 1970, Senator Walter Mondale introduced a bill called the Comprehensive Child Development Act (CCDA) that aimed to make the US government responsible for providing “high-quality childcare and early education, home visiting and other services to each and every family that wanted it.” Calling for free, universal childcare in the US, the CCDA sought to promote both social equality and national prosperity. It was passed in Congress with bi-partisan support from both Democrats and Republicans.

In order for it to become law, however, it needed to be signed by President Nixon. Pressure was put on him by groups claiming that universal childcare in the US would undercut “personal responsibility” and erode “family values.” Ignoring the fact that a large number of women could only support their families by working, that parents with children would need childcare in order to work outside of the home, and high-quality childcare could be too costly for some families, this government program that could have helped poor and working families was vetoed.

The CCDA bill was re-introduced twice in Congress following the 1971 veto. Although millions of people could have benefitted from it, vocal opponents claimed that the CCDA would “relieve parents of their responsibility for child rearing” rather than strengthening the family. Because of politics, the bill was squelched.

Lower and middle class working mothers in the US today struggle to find high-quality, affordable childcare. Some families pay more for childcare than they do for rent! The earliest years are the ones that form the social, emotional, and cognitive framework for children; not having adequate childcare can severely limit possibilities for development of important skills and experiences. It is not unusual in public libraries to see young struggling mothers visiting with their children. They seem tired, impatient, and beaten down. Because they cannot afford childcare, they are unwillingly “stuck” with the children, and unable to get a job that will help pay their bills while also building their self-esteem.

Although we provide a haven for these families, offer literacy programs, share information, and provide resources, it would be great if we could do more. Perhaps we can help by participating in National Library Legislative Day and telling our elected officials about the importance of free public services to families with children. I wonder if legislators realize the full impact of their actions on early childhood education. To whom do they talk to learn about the implications of policy?

Today’s guest blogger is Betsy Diamant-Cohen, posting on behalf of the ALSC Early Childhood Programs and Services Committee, of which she is a member. Betsy developed the Mother Goose on the Loose early literacy program; she enjoys consulting and presenting training workshops to fellow librarians.

The post National Library Legislative Day Matters! appeared first on ALSC Blog.

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6. 13 Ways to Champion Literacy: Babies Need Words Every Day – The Blog Tour!

Well, friends, we here at the Public Awareness Committee hope that you’ve been learning A LOT by reading the daily entries in the Babies Need Words Every Day Blog Tour this week. As a refresher, you can find a link to all of the posts here from Early Childhood Programs & Services Committee chair Brooke Newberry.

BNWEDBlogTourOur committee is tasked with wrapping up the blog tour by sharing some simple, high-impact ways in which you–yes, YOU!–can get these amazing resources created by the Early Childhood Programs & Services Committee out into your library and your community at large. Many of these are field-tested, so you know they’re legit. So challenge yourself to be an early literacy advocate in the next few weeks by doing one (or more!) of the following.

13 Ways to Champion Early Literacy using Babies Need Words Every Day Resources

1. Send the posters home with your storytime parents with the specific invitation to share it with a friend who can’t make it to storytime.

2. Next time you head to a preschool or daycare for an outreach visit, bring some of the posters with you for the center to hang in their halls or lobby. Bonus: Share the link to the posters so the center can print their own and send them home with families!

3. Give your local child-serving establishments a call and ask if you can bring some posters to them to display on their community boards and/or above changing tables. Bonus: Create a small banner to hand below the posters to advertise your library!

4. Think of existing service bundles that you offer to young families and add a poster and the book list to the mix. For example, the Lake Oswego Public Library has “new parent” gift bags that they give to patrons who have babies under 6 months old. Each bag contains 4 board books, a brochure about the library, and Babies Need Words Every Day literature and a poster.

5. Share the posters and other resources on your library’s social media platforms.

6. Share the link to the Babies Need Words Every Day page on your local library and early childhood listservs. Work those networking connections!

7. Share this very blog post, and the others from the tour, with your supervisor and ask that Babies Need Words Every Day be one of your initiatives for 2016.

8. Send a personal note, along with a poster, to your community contacts who may have influence and connections that can give the posters wider use.

9. Make it a goal to include each of the four poster practices in your next four baby storytimes.

10. Reach out to your local newspaper and other news sources to see if they’d cover the library’s early literacy initiatives, making sure to include Babies Need Words Every Day resources.

11. Hang the posters over changing tables. Use the Changing Table Locator website to find changing tables at establishments in your community frequented by families, then head to those locations with poster and tape in hand. Add any changing tables you visit to the locator if they aren’t already included.

12. Think of existing programs you do, both in-house and outside, and think of a way to work in the posters and the practices they tout. For example, if your library offers parent-baby classes at a hospital, bring some posters with to share with families and hang up in the waiting room.

13. Think creatively about where families in your community spend time, then bring posters to those locations. Think community centers, transit stations, laundromats, doctors’ offices, the post office, the DMV, banks, parks, schools, restaurants, grocery stores, shopping centers… truly, families are everywhere, and early literacy support can be, too!

How have you been inspired to promote early literacy throughout this week’s Babies Need Words Every Day blog tour?


This post was written by the Public Awareness Committee.

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7. Welcome to 2016 & See You at Midwinter!

Cheer, cheer, cheer the year,
A new one’s just begun.
Celebrate with all your friends,
Let’s go have some fun!
Clap, clap, clap your hands,
A brand new year is here.
Learning, laughing, singing, clapping,
Through another year.

–Anonymous (to the tune of “Row, Row, Row Your Boat”)

Happy New Year, everyone!

Seeing out the old year, one of my final presidential activities of 2015 was also one of the most interesting. I was very happy to represent ALSC at the “Breakthroughs in Parent Engagement and Early Literacy” forum, presented by New America and the Joan Ganz Cooney Center, sponsored by the Joyce Foundation, and held here in Chicago at Erikson Institute’s Technology in Early Childhood (TEC) Center. It was led by Lisa Guernsey and Michael Levine, authors of the book Tap, Click, Read: Growing Readers in a World of Screens, which Lisa talked about when she presented the keynote at last summer’s Leadership & ALSC meeting at ALA Annual in San Francisco.

Andrew & Aimee at #TechEarlyLit. Photo credit: Tamara Kaldor @chiplaypro

Andrew & Aimee at #TechEarlyLit. Photo credit: Tamara Kaldor

I was joined that day by ALSC Executive Director Aimee Strittmatter, and other attendees included researchers, educators, parent-engagement specialists, and policymakers, all coming together to gain a clearer picture of the changing terrain of parenting and early learning programs in formal and informal settings, and exploring new initiatives in this area, particularly those involving evolving technology like apps. It was a chance for ALSC to spread the word about children’s librarians’ roles as Media Mentors and to collaborate with colleagues from such groups as the Institute for Educational Leadership, the Ounce of Prevention Fund, the Thirty Million Words Initiative, and the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Early Learning.

Photo source: http://www.erikson.edu/

Photo source: http://www.erikson.edu/


For more perspectives on the forum, you can check out tweets from the day using #TechEarlyLit.



MW16_ImAttendingSeeing in the new, one of the first ALSC events of 2016 starts this week, as Midwinter is much earlier than usual this year. For those of you who will be in Boston, the list of ALSC activities is available here, and everybody at home can follow along here on the ALSC Blog and on Twitter with #alamw16 and #alaleftbehind. Especially useful will be the exploration of the many ways you can take advantage of our newly updated Core Competencies at Leadership & ALSC on Saturday morning (January 9) at 8:30 a.m. Eastern (in person: Convention Center Room 153A; at home: #leadALSC).


I can’t wait to be back in Boston, get to see so many friends, visit local libraries as part of my #ALSCtour, and of course learn the winners of the Youth Media Awards (YMA) on Monday morning (January 11) at 8:00 Eastern. (#ALAyma) I’ll be putting on a tie very early to emcee this year’s announcements, which is, IMO, the most exciting presidential duty, even for this non-morning person, and one which comes with a sneak peak at the winners (my lips & tweets are sealed!). If you’re planning to watch in a more casual outfit, you can check out the details on this year’s virtual pajama viewing party here. Best wishes to all of the award committees and thank you for your hard and fun work!

Midwinter is also very important for ALSC as one of the two times a year our entire Board comes together in person to work on our strategic future. (#ALSCboard) The Board’s agenda and accompanying documents are available to all here, and you will definitely be hearing from me afterwards with an account of our meetings. I’m particularly looking forward to our mega-issue discussion on ALSC’s role in the future of summer reading & learning, and if you have any thoughts or questions on any of these agenda items, please feel free to let me know at [email protected]

Cheers to the years, old and new!


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8. Keeping it simple

Sometimes it can be simple! I already did a comic this month, so here’s a recent easy project I created in our library: The Darien Alphabet!

For a while now, I’ve been wanting to do a project that brings together early literacy, open-ended art activities, community-building, and library created book-making. I had a million complicated ideas and then one simple one. And simple ideas can work too!

I put out an accordion folder with an alphabet on it, sheets of paper that said “A is for…” etc that had blank spaces on them for drawing, a map of the town, colored pencils, directions, and pictures from around town. We left the table up in the corner of the Children’s Library for a couple months, and then I scanned in the responses we got back and created Photoshop mosaics of the work.

L-library_paige copysm

An example of a filled out sheet

I got some great responses (and some really funny ones – R is for Rat?)! See below. And now, we’re printing up a book (photo books from Staples or Shutterfly are around $30) for the collection, helping foster the idea that kids can be authors too!

Y is for YMCA pool-sm I is for interstate 95-sm L is for Library-sm

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9. 1,000 Books Before Kindergarten


mom reads 1” by popofatticus is licensed under CC by 2.0

I am happy to announce that my public library will be rolling out our 1,000 Books Before Kindergarten program in January 2016! Allison, one of our Youth Services Librarians, has been hard at work this fall planning the details and creating print pieces for our upcoming soft launch.

Have you heard of the 1,000 Books Before Kindergarten program? It’s a program in which preschool children (with their caregivers) register either in a library or online to attempt to read at least 1,000 books before the child enters Kindergarten. The caregivers keep track of the books they read with the child, and at certain milestones the child earns prizes. Once the child has read 1,000 books, they’ve completed the program and receive great accolades, in addition to all the benefits of being exposed to a variety of children’s literature. Of course it doesn’t necessarily have to be 1,000 different books; we all know that children enjoy reading the same books over and over.

This program goes hand-in-hand with reading aloud 15 minutes per day and supports both Every Child Ready to Read and Babies Need Words Every Day. There’s no best or correct way to implement the 1,000 Books Before Kindergarten program; it can be customized to fit any budget, for unlimited number of participants, and can go on indefinitely.

Upon first hearing about the program, the number 1,000 may seem quite large. How can children possibly read 1,000 books before Kindergarten? It’s actually quite simple. If a child reads 1 book each day, the 1,000-book goal can be met in less than three years. Increasing the reading to three books per day would mean that the child completes the 1,000 books in less than a year. While it seems daunting, the goal is attainable. Any reading counts, including books shared in story times.

Ready to learn more about this program? Here are some resources that you might find useful in deciding whether or not this is a good fit for your library and your community.

What do you think about this kind of program? Have you tried it at your library? Are there any last minute tips you want to share before we launch our program next month?

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10. Community Engagement and Early Literacy Programs

At the Fayetteville Free Library (FFL) we have embraced the idea of community engagement in a big way. We recognize that our community members are generous, talented, and have many varied and unique skill sets. Therefore, we invite them to share what they are passionate about and what they know – engaging them with the library in deeply meaningful ways.

In order to capture this information, we developed a new community engagement tool that is available in our public spaces. This form has replaced our former volunteer application, which only allowed for more traditional types of volunteer activity. On the new form we ask three quick and simple questions:

  1. What do you love to do?
  2. What are you passionate about?
  3. Would you be willing to share what you know with your community members?

Though the tool was originally developed in support of our makerspaces like the FFL Fab Lab (fflib.org/make), it is used organization wide and has proved useful in early literacy and children’s programs as well as making.

For example, after our Music and Movement class, a parent who had attended the program with her two kids approached me and told me she was an early childhood music teacher. She said she loved the program and asked if I had a degree in the field. This interaction was the perfect opportunity for us to encourage her to share her expertise with the rest of the community. I told her that I did not have an educational background in music, and asked if she had ideas for how we could expand or improve on the program. I gave her the community engagement form and used the tool to capture her enthusiasm and to provide her with the platform to get involved.

Free to Be

Free to Be

All new community participants meet with our executive director, and we are especially careful with which patrons we invite to work with children. As it turns out, this patron went on to help me plan and co-facilitate many sessions of Music and Movement. She also developed a planning checklist of music concepts and motor skills to cover in each session, and her unique perspective led to many wonderful additions to the program. In a similar experience, a woman called the library and informed us that she was a former preschool teacher and loves to play the guitar for children. We were able to capture her interest and meet with her to develop a new program series called “Free to Be.” Our patrons LOVE this program, which features live guitar music, silly song writing, and acting, and it’s something I never could have offered, because I don’t play an instrument. Our old volunteer model tended to slot people into roles we had identified a need for, but our new approach invites community members to come to us with their ideas, interests, and passions. We open up the library as a platform on which they can share their talent and expertise to make meaningful connections.

While my examples are focused on children’s programming, this tool is being used daily in every part of our library and has parlayed into a new, booming volunteer base. As a result of this philosophy and approach, we have been able to broaden and deepen our library programming, offering more opportunities, on a much wider range of topics, at a fraction of the cost. It also strengthens our community, as individuals build relationships and skills that they would not otherwise been able to, if not for the library. Do you engage community participants in programs and how do you do it?


Courtesy photo from guest blogger

Courtesy photo from guest blogger

Our guest blogger today is Stephanie C. Prato. Stephanie is the Director of Play to Learn Services at the Fayetteville Free Library (FFL), NY. With experience in youth services, community outreach, leadership, instruction, and technology, she has developed innovative programs for babies, toddlers, preschoolers, and school-aged children. She is an active member of the American Library Association and serves as a member of the Early Childhood Programs and Services Committee of ALSC. If you have any questions, email her at [email protected].

Please note as a guest post, the views expressed here do not represent the official position of ALA or ALSC.

If you’d like to write a guest post for the ALSC Blog, please contact Mary Voors, ALSC Blog manager, at [email protected].

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11. On the Road Again, Reaching Out

One morning in mid-December, Hogwarts woke to find itself covered in several feet of snow . . . [and] no one could wait for the holidays to start.

–J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone

The writing's on the wall at the Central Children's Library in Denver!

The writing’s on the wall at the Central Children’s Library in Denver!

As the days get shorter and colder in the northern hemisphere and the holidays arrive, it’s been a busy season!

A couple of weeks ago I was in Denver (where it’s already snowed about as much as at Hogwarts) reaching out to those gathered for the LENA Research Foundation conference (#lena2015), the theme of which was “Parents Have the Power: Solving the ‘early catastrophe’ through science and parental investment.” It was an ideal opportunity to share the work ALSC is doing with Babies Need Words Every Day and in our partnership with PLA on Every Child Ready to Read, and I joined a panel with a pediatrician, health policy professor, and early learning innovator to discuss what each of us can bring to the work of making sure children are ready to read. Dr. Dana Suskind, author of Thirty Million Words: Building a Child’s Brain, gave the conference keynote, and we also heard from the Campaign for Grade Level Reading; Kara Dukakis, Director of Too Small to Fail; and Carine Risley, Library Services Manager at San Mateo County Library in California. I was delighted to be joined by children’s librarians from across Colorado, and of course it’s always fun to visit the Denver Public Library, where I saw many piles of cardboard (have you read Amy Seto Forrester’s recent post yet?) and many, many instances of kids talking, singing, reading, writing, and playing—thanks Ann Schwab, Rachel Hartman, and Lauren Dennis! (You can see all of the conference presentations here.)

The sign says it all!

The greeting at the Bangor airport


I’m most grateful to ALSC member Louise Capizzo (@Lcapizzo) for inviting me to be a part of this year’s Maine Library Association Annual Conference in Bangor where I was lucky enough to present a keynote about ALSC’s work, entitled “The Future: Moving Forward, Reaching Out, Giving Back.” I had an absolutely fantastic time and was thrilled to be joined at the conference by my ALSC Board colleague Vicky Smith, as well as ALA president Sari Feldman, right off the plane from the Sharjah Library Conference, who inspired us all with her Libraries Transform message.


Paul Bunyan greets MLA conference attendees on a beautiful Maine morning.

Paul Bunyan welcomes MLA conference attendees on a beautiful Maine morning.

On this trip my #ALSCtour took me to the Brewer Public Library and I arrived just as storytime was wrapping up and the whole building, parking lot, and playground (the library has their own) was filled with happiness! Many thanks to director Katie Conner, children’s librarian Shelley Arnold, and all of their wonderful colleagues for all they do for the kids of Brewer, Maine every day!

Miss Shelley hangs a Babies Need Words Every Day poster in the children's room.

Miss Shelley hangs a Babies Need Words Every Day poster in the Brewer Public Library’s children’s room.

And December may be icy at Hogwarts, but it’s warm and sunny in Puerto Rico, which made this the perfect time for me to visit and–even better!–get to work with 2010 Belpré Honor winner Georgina Lázaro León to film a promo for next year’s 20th anniversary of the Pura Belpré Award. Working together with our Belpré partner, REFORMA, we shot it on the grounds of Escuela Central de Artes Visuales, the building where Pura Belpré attended high school in San Juan’s Santurce neighborhood, which is where she lived until moving to New York in the 1920s and going on to be the first Puerto Rican librarian at New York Public Library. Stay tuned for the final cut of our video and in the meantime save the date for the Belpré celebración at ALA Annual in Orlando on Sunday, June 26, 1:00 – 4:00 p.m.

Yours truly & Georgina Lázaro León, ready for our close-up

Yours truly & Georgina Lázaro León, ready for our close-up

This is one among many, many wonderful things coming in 2016 as we all continue to work together to build a better future for children though libraries!

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12. Is the 30 Million Word Gap a stat we should be using?


Most recently, I read about it in the ALSC campaign Babies Need Words Everyday.


It was such a clear campaign with great graphics that we immediately hung up in our library’s bathroom. And, it had research to back it up – the introductory flyer said “By the time children from low-income families reach the age of four, they will have heard thirty million fewer words than their more advantaged peers.” The initiative was created in response to the Obama Administration’s 2014 call to increase early literacy initiatives to bridge the word gap. It uses the research that coined the 30 Million Word Gap as a talking point, and integrates newer research done by LENA or Dr. Dana Suskind, both of which use the “30 Million Word Gap” research as a framework for theirs. My colleague Claire Moore and I were curious about this statistic, and did some digging to learn more.

The “The Early Catastrophe: The 30 Million Word Gap by Age 3” by University of Kansas researchers Betty Hart and Todd R. Risley was a 2003 article in American Educator (Spring: 4-9), which was an excerpt from their 1995 book Meaningful Differences in the Everyday Experiences of Young American Children. The research, although it has been used as a rallying cry in campaigns across the country (including Too Small to Fail, Thirty Million Words, and local initiatives), has been shown to have some disturbing issues.

The issues that other researchers and educators have found in this study include:


Here is a breakdown of their critiques.

Sample size

In their most cited body of research, the researchers visited 13 high-income families, 10 families of middle socioeconomic status, 13 of low socioeconomic status, and 6 families who were on public assistance in Kansas City one hour per month for two and a half years. They made 1,318 observations and counted vocabulary words spoken to children by parents. The families only included African-American and White families that spoke English; bilingual children do have slower rates of learning vocabulary, but have other skills that monolingual children do not have (Dufresny & Madsey, 2006). They then looked at the number of words heard by each child by SES and saw the gap that has been trumpeted over and over again. The average child on public assistance heard 616 words per hour, the working class child 1,251 words per hour, and the professional family’s child heard 2,153 words per hour of observation. This number was then greatly extrapolated to show that by age four, there was a 32 million word gap between the child receiving public assistance and the child in the professional class. This assumes that the year had 5200 hours and the big assumption: that the number of words heard in an hour during observation was typical.

Data coding

After the observations, the researchers coded the words the children were hearing from parents. They coded for “quality of interactions” and spent very little time explaining how these codes are backed up by research – in fact, their explanation cites extensive research, but the footnotes only contain a reference to look at their earlier research. Sarah Michaels, Professor of Education at Clark University, said, “Hart and Risley coded for upper middle class/academic or professional politeness and interactional patterns, found that the upper income families used more of them, and simply asserted that more of the quality features is better in producing learning-related outcomes. They identified upper and middle class features of talk, coded and counted them and found, guess what, they correlate with class” (p. 26, 2013). Other researchers say “…by taking the language practices of the middle- and upper-SES families in their sample as the standard, Hart and Risley transformed the linguistic differences they found among the welfare families in their study into linguistic deficiencies” (Dudley-Marling & Lucas, p. 365). The Hart and Risley study set up the working class families and families receiving public assistance to fail. Teresa McCarty, from the University of California Los Angeles, puts it well: “Cloaked in well-intentions— ‘giving children the competencies they need to succeed in school’ (Hart and Risley 1995:2)—gap discourse simultaneously constructs a logic of individual dysfunction, limitation, and failure while masking the systemic power inequities through which the logic is normalized” (Avinerini, et al, p. 71).


This deficiency thinking is similar to the reaction to a 1961 book by Oscar Lewis called The Children of Sanchez which coined the term “culture of poverty.” The book was an ethnographic study of small Mexican Communities that attributed 50 shared attitudes, such as violence and poor planning skills, to the larger culture of all poor people. Unfortunately, this deficit thinking is incredibly harmful to both those under the microscope and the educators (and librarians) who work with them. Paul Gorksy says “Deficit theorists use two strategies for propagating this worldview: (1) drawing on well-established stereotypes and (2) ignoring systemic conditions, such as inequitable access to high-quality schooling, that support the cycle of poverty” (2008). Again, by using a deficit framework, we obscure structural inequalities.

“Valence” or the emotional character of the words was also coded: affirmative, open-ended statements were seen as quality, whereas directive were seen as low quality. Again, no research was cited. There are many reasons why coding in this way without an explanation is wrong – mainly, that white, upper and middle class ways of speaking to their children were valued as quality. In a 2015 article, Gulnaz Saiyed says, “While middle-class activities do lead children to develop a sense of entitlement, individuality, and set them up to feel comfortable in schools, they deemphasize other childhood experiences. For example, many working-class parents do not overschedule their children with extracurricular activities. Instead, they provide opportunities for play, development of curiosity, creativity, and respect for different perspectives.” Another point brought up by Saiyed is how African American children are disciplined more harshly in school, and parents may be preparing them for that. Michaels (2013) agrees, saying “Again, I want to remind you that people from different cultures talk differently to infants, and no one approach or style has been shown to be cognitively superior to another in helping children acquire their native language or grow up to be smart” (p. 29).


In addition, mobile technology has changed parenting for all social statuses. In other research conducted by Dr. Dana Suskind, middle and upper class parents have other bad habits: “[Anne] Fernald, who sits on the scientific advisory board for Providence Talks, told me, “Some of the wealthiest families in our research had low word counts, possibly because they were on their gadgets all day. So you can see an intermingling at the extremes of rich and poor. Socioeconomic status is not destiny” (Talbot, 2015). The blanket assignation of the bad culture of poverty is harmful to all parents.


The research makes sweeping extrapolations for its findings. In their book Meaningful Differences, Hart and Risley assert that vocabulary is an important indicator for future success, but spend very little time explaining why: “Because the vocabulary that individuals can command reflects so well their intellectual resources, we still have oral examinations, and vocabulary plays a major role in tests of intelligence” (p. 6). There are no citations of other research that describes why vocabulary is indicates “intellectual resources” – instead, they talk about how it is easy to measure.


As a librarian, I understand the importance of vocabulary as one aspect of literacy. However, I don’t understand why this study allows vocabulary to be the main indicator for school success, or why specifically children as partners in the conversation (as opposed to overhearing conversations) was seen as so important. As Susan Blum says in “Invited Forum: Bridging the ‘Language Gap’” (Averini, et al, 2015), “Anthropological research shows, in fact, that addressing the youngest children as conversational partners is extremely unusual in the world” (p. 75). Are we sure that makes it better?

Michaels says, “The deeply destructive, pernicious thing about the Hart and Risley study is that it presents what seems like totally rigorous, careful, objective science (what under careful inspection is nothing more than pseudo-science)—that gives teachers, educators, policy makers the ‘proof’ they need to believe that these poor kids aren’t smart, aren’t good learners, don’t have adequate language to think well with” (p. 35).  As librarians, when we cite the 30 Million Word Gap, we run the risk of continuing to enforce the bias and classism that this study did, as do some of the initiatives that have cropped up around this study. “In effect, the word gap interventions propose that improving social and economic outcomes for poor and minority families can be as simple as training them to act more white and middle-class (and monitoring their compliance with a ‘word pedometer’)” (Saiyed, 2015). While Babies Need Words Everyday does not go as far as to install word pedometers on parents, and instead simply encourages them to speak with their babies, the issue is very different – but by using word gap and deficit thinking, we may be treading in dangerous territory.

What can we do?

As librarians, we can help support literacy skill-building for both parents and children with Babies Need Words Everyday’s colorful posters and in our storytimes and outreach efforts. As public libraries, we provide free support to parents of all classes who may be struggling to find time or resources to provide early literacy practices to their children. Families in poverty also get support from public libraries to help them combat the structural inequalities they face. We also have to make sure we are creative and reflexive about encouraging multiple literacies, such as (all of which are strengths of a diversity of groups):


As centers providing informal learning opportunities, libraries are the perfect spaces for encouraging multiple literacies. For instance, “Low-income children are more likely than their higher-income peers to be in factory-like classrooms that allow little interaction and physical movement. As a result, these children spend more time sitting, following directions and listening rather than discussing, debating, solving problems and sharing ideas” (McManus, 2015). ALSC members have many brilliant ideas for programming to combat this issue on this blog. What else can we do?

If we are truly invested in literacy equity as librarians, being engaged in understanding our own attitudes and resources is important. I feel hesitant to use the 30 Million Word Gap as a statistic in my storytimes because of what it implicates, and I wonder what you all think. Even the newer research by the LENA foundation and Dr. Dana Suskind use Hart and Risley’s flawed framework. The newly updated ALSC competencies are full of guidance about recognizing and responding to structural inequalities, being self-reflexive, and culturally competent. I’ll end with one of them.


-Many thanks to Claire Moore – this piece is the result our meetings and conversations and her editing skills.

Lisa Nowlain is the Harold W. McGraw Jr. Fellow and Children’s Librarian at Darien Library in Darien, CT (you can be the next one! Apply by April 1 at www.darienlibrary.org/mcgrawfellowship) She is also an artist-type (see more at www.lisanowlain.com).

Sources cited

Avinerini, N., et al (2015). Invited Forum: Bridging the “Language Gap.” Journal of Linguistic Anthropology, 25(1), pp. 66–86. Retrieved from  http://www.susanblum.com/uploads/4/7/2/1/4721639/jla_-_language_gap_forum_2015.pdf

Dudley-Marling, C. & Lucas, K. (May 2009) Pathologizing the Language and Culture of Poor Children. Language Arts, 86(5), pp. 362-370. http://academic.evergreen.edu/curricular/med/langpoor.pdf

Dufresne, T. & Masny, D. (November 2006). Multiple literacies: Linking the research on bilingualism and biliteracies to the practical. Paediatr Child Health, 11(9), pp 577–579. Retrieved from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2528653/#b12-pch11577

Gorski, P (April 2008).  The Myth of the Culture of Poverty. Poverty and Learning, 65(7), pp 32-36. Retrieved from http://www.ascd.org/publications/educational-leadership/apr08/vol65/num07/The-Myth-of-the-Culture-of-Poverty.aspx

Hart, B. & Risley, T.R. (1995). Meaningful Differences in the Everyday Experience of Young American Children. Paul H. Brookes: Baltimore.

Hart, B. & Risley, R. (Spring 2003). The Early Catastrophe: The 30 Million Word Gap by Age 3. American Educator, 4(9).

McManus, M. (2015, October 12). Are some kids really smarter just because they know more words? The Conversation. Retrieved from http://theconversation.com/are-some-kids-really-smarter-just-because-they-know-more-words-47819

Michaels, S. (Autumn 2013). Déjà Vu All Over Again: What’s Wrong With Hart & Risley and a “Linguistic Deficit” Framework in Early Childhood Education? LEARNing Landscapes, 7(1), pp 23-41. Retrieved from http://www.learninglandscapes.ca/images/documents/ll-no13/michaels.pdf

Saiyed, G. & Smirnov, N. (2015, January 9) OpEd: Does ’30-Million Word Gap’ Have Gap in Authenticity? Chicago Bureau. Retrieved from http://www.chicago-bureau.org/oped-30-million-word-gap-gap-authenticity/

Talbot, Margo (2015, January 12). The Talking Cure. The New Yorker. Retrieved from  http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2015/01/12/talking-cure
Other Resources

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13. Dance Parties are Fun-and Important!

Yesterday I hosted a Bibliobop Dance Party at my library. I started Bibliobop (our baby/toddler/preschooler dance party) about four years ago. The program includes lots of music and movement, reading books about dancing and music and lots of fun. We use shaker eggs, instruments, parachutes, and scarves. Biblibop is hosted on Saturday mornings once every few months. This Fall, I also started a program called Preschool Wiggleworms, which is another music and movement program. The weekly programs are a bit more themed (we talk about certain types of dance or themes each week) but the general idea is similar to Biblibop. We dance, move, and have fun.

My mom is a music teacher, so I grew up surrounded by the arts. Singing and dancing were regular parts of my life. But the more I do these creative movement programs, the more I realize this is an aspect of early literacy that we really need to promote.

The more I host these creative movement programs, the more I am surprised by how many people don’t include music and movement in their daily lives. I think because I grew up with it’s second nature to me, but for so many people it’s not. At each of these programs, I have parents tell me “this is so great-we don’t do this at home!” When my son was born and I was singing to him as I changed his diaper, my mother-in-law said “that’s so neat how you sing to him all the time.” It wasn’t something she had thought about doing with a newborn. And I always have parents (and staff) who  say they don’t know how to sing, they aren’t good singers, they can’t dance. But we all know the kids don’t care!

We have so many great resources from books to CDs that can help parents host their own dance parties at home. When I host these programs, I try and focus on the Singing skill of Every Child Ready to Read and letting parents know why singing and dancing is so important. Singing helps us slow down, hear words in a new way, it grows vocabulary. Dancing helps kids move. As I write this, my 1-year-old son is dancing and singing around my living room with his dad to “Tooty-Ta”. His vocabulary has grown from listening to the song and he can recite the order of all the movements.

Even if you think you can’t sing or can’t dance, you can host a creative movement program. It’s lots of fun to put together and the kids and adults have a blast. Here are a few of my favorite songs and activities:

I Can Shake My Shaker Egg by The Learning Groove (shaker eggs)

The Apple Tree by Bari Koral Family Rock Band (scarves)

Happy by Jennifer Gasoi (scarves or parachute)

Country Classics Start and Stop by Hap Palmer (shakers or parachute)

The Freeze by Greg and Steve (it’s a classic must have!)

Bop Til You Drop by Greg and Steve

The Train Beat Song by The Sugar Free Allstars

Airband by The Pop Ups

Do you host creative movement programs at your library? How do you share the importance of singing and dancing with your patrons? Any favorite songs or activities?

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14. Partnering: Early Literacy and Early Intervention

We all love finding great partners in our community! One of my favorite community connections is the amazing staff at Early Intervention which is a part of our county’s Infant & Toddler Services. Libraries and Early Intervention are a natural complement to each other’s services. We target similar ages and both have a strong focus on early childhood development.

Our relationship with Infant & Toddler Services began two years ago when we offered a county wide inclusive playgroup. Our librarians developed the play ideas and Jessica, a social worker from Early Intervention came and played with us. We didn’t attract many families who were already receiving services but it did offer a wonderful opportunity for Jessica to talk with families about any developmental concerns. It was so powerful! There probably isn’t a parent in the world who hasn’t had questions about their child’s development at some point. Right!?!

This program opened a door for continued collaboration between Jessica and myself. I had previously provided Sensory Storytimes but had to discontinue them due to interest that fizzled after about a year. Jessica and I discovered we both have passion for “sensory kids” and have worked to revamp this program. It is launching in January 2016 and we are very excited to start this new adventure together!

Early Intervention also has the power to make sure families know libraries are a welcoming place for special needs children. Who else has partnered with your community’s Early Intervention? I would love to hear about what you have done!

If you haven’t made a connection with this service in your community I urge you to make a call today. You will have no regrets!



Erin Rogers is a Children’s Librarian in Virginia and a member of the Library Service to Special Populations and Their Caregivers Committee

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15. Getting Ahead with Head Start

Head Start and Early Head Start programs support the comprehensive development of children from birth to age 5, in centers, child care partner locations, and in their own homes.  In fact, did you know that Head Start just realized a milestone 50 year anniversary? This five minute video gives you a quick history of this important community organization.

You can find a Head Start agency in your community by looking at their site locator. Many libraries partner with Head Start sites by sending library staff to the center to conduct early learning story time sessions. Sometimes, a center might have a grant to provide transportation services, so that they can bus students directly to the library for story time or other play based sessions.

One way I like to partner with Head Start is to work with their county based administration office, where I can provide trainings and workshops to staff and teachers, often utilizing resources from ALSC and ALA. Every Child Ready to Read and Babies Need Words are two great examples of program offerings through ALSC that have direct benefit to early education staff members in Head Start centers.

I was recently asked to provide resources to teachers and other staff members at a three day staff training conference for our local Head Start sites. I shared some of my favorite early learning websites: along with examples of activities and books they could use in their classroom settings. Of course, with limited funding, Head Start classrooms love to receive book donations – so I made sure I brought two suitcases worth of new and gently used, like new books for every person attending the workshop to take two books back to use in their classrooms.

Diversity is also an important topic for sites, as many Head Start families come from a multitude of cultures and backgrounds. I shared a booklist that School Library Journal published in July 2015, on Diverse Books for 0-5 year olds, with them, as well as making sure that my give-away items included diverse books.

Overall, for a day outside of my building, I got to connect with over 60 staff members from twenty-three of our counties’ Head Start sites, and tell them about early learning programs and services that their community libraries offer, hopefully strengthening and building a solid connection between the public libraries and another early learning organization. Which organizations do you like to partner with in YOUR community?

Lisa G. Kropp works for the Suffolk Cooperative Library System as the youth services coordinator. She has written this post as a member of the ALSC National Organizations Serving Children and Youth Committee.

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16. These Posters Would Look Great in Your Bathroom!

Babies Need WordsALSC has launched Babies Need Words Every Day: Talk, Read, Sing, Play. These shareable resources were designed to bridge the 30 Million Word Gap by providing parents with proven ways to build their children’s literacy skills. Babies Need Words Every Day resources include eight visually appealing posters that deliver simple, effective rhymes, games and other suggestions for immediate, enriching ways to communicate with babies.

These free posters are available in English and Spanish, and are ideal for posting above changing tables in child care centers, in doctors’ waiting rooms and anywhere else where children and their caregivers have a moment to talk, read, sing and play. ALSC also provides a book list that suggests some books for parents to request at their local library. Librarians should encourage their community partners to download and display these free printable resources.

Image courtesy of ALSC.

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17. A Fresh Start for the New School Year

With our summer reading club winding down tomorrow, August 15th, now seems like a perfect time for us to focus on some new goals as kids return to the classrooms. What ideas do you have to improve your programs, services, and library spaces during this next school year?

Out with the Old           

(Image provided by Thinkstockphotos.com)

(Image provided by Thinkstockphotos.com)

During our busy summer it can be nearly impossible for us to organize everything we need as we scramble from one program to the next. It may not appear as exciting as some of our other tasks, but organizing our offices and closets during this time of transition after summer reading and before the school groups come rolling in can prove tremendously helpful. We complete an inventory of our closets and find some previously hidden treasures that could work perfectly as a prop for story time or an innovative craft. This also helps us save a lot of time when we have things better organized so we can best access our materials, and we use this time to order more supplies to ensure our closets are better stocked when we have those last minute programs we need to put together. Are there any special projects you are taking on to ensure your work space is better organized moving forward this school year?

Examining Our Early Literacy Efforts    

(Image provided by Thinkstockphotos.com)

(Image provided by Thinkstockphotos.com)

Our focus this fall is to streamline our efforts with our early literacy programs and services. Our December youth services training will review the latest edition of Every Child Ready to Read to ensure our new staffers have the skills and confidence to encourage parents and caregivers to participate in early literacy activities with their children at home. We will examine the agencies already available in our community to determine how they provide programs and resources to our children and their families. It is important for us to consider how to reach out to the customers walking through our doors as well as the day cares, preschools, and hospitals we may partner with in order for us to better serve our patrons. What projects or goals do you have to improve your services to your customers as we transition into this new school year?

Summer Reading Brainstorming                 

(Image provided by Thinkstockphotos.com)

(Image provided by Thinkstockphotos.com)

As soon as we complete one year’s club, we begin to focus on the next. The ALSC Blog has been a valuable resource for us as we read the creative ideas from librarians across the county interested in innovative ways to increase participation and get children excited about reading all summer long. We will review our prizes and programs to consider how to best reach our audiences next year. When we give our summer reading program the emphasis it deserves by debriefing our previous program and planning the next early in the year, we work to ensure our next year’s program is as successful as possible. It may seem light years away from now, but June and the start of our next summer reading club will be here before we know it. What ideas do you have to enhance your summer reading program for next year?

August is a month full of transitions from one busy season to the next. We will focus our efforts on decluttering our spaces, enhancing our early literacy efforts, and beginning our initial planning for next summer’s reading program. What plans and ideas do you hope to complete during this new school year? Please share in the comments below!



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18. #alaac15 Prescription for Reading Success

I attended the session “Early Learning in the Library: Tools, Partnerships, and Promising Practices” and was enthralled with the information presented by the guest speakers, who were grantees in the IMLS program. Since 2013, IMLS has funded $8.5 million in early learning projects in communities nationwide.

One of the most interesimls_rx_pad_imgting? A partnership that is brewing with the national organization Reach Out and Read. Pediatricians in the Reach Out and Read network routinely distribute books to babies during well visits – but the IMLS partnership looks to have pediatricians “prescribe” a visit to the library as well, so young families are encouraged to continue to read and share books with their young ones. Click here for more information, and to view the contents of the “Prescription for Success” toolkit.


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19. Giving Every Child a Fighting Chance #alaac15

There was hardly a dry eye in the audience following Saturday’s screening of the new PBS documentary, The Raising of America: Early Childhood and the Future of Our Nation. This illuminating film featured moving testimonials from families living in poverty or just barely getting by due to the high cost of quality childcare. The film included facts about the critical brain development that occurs during ages 0-5, and how many children in struggling families are missing out on access to stimulating and education-rich environments and opportunities. Instead, stress (in the form of cortisol) is passed on from parent to child, which leaves a lasting imprint on the child’s development and functioning. This stress follows him or her into adulthood…setting the scene for a cycle that can continue for generations.

Clocking in at about an hour, the documentary was extremely powerful and will provoke libraries–and anyone who cares about nurturing a nation of strong, smart, and independent children–to carefully consider ways we can work together as a community to level the playing field for all children. As the film points out, that moment almost came in 1971, when Congress passed a bill for universal childcare and developmental services for young children. Unfortunately, Nixon vetoed it. Imagine the ways this country may be different today had those services been available for all these decades. Isn’t it time for that change to happen now?

Resources at the panel included:

The Raising of America Web site – Features clips from the documentary series, resources, and ways to take action. The documentary DVD was released in June 2015 and will air on public television soon (time TBD).

For Our Babies – A national movement focusing on efforts to support children age 0-3. A book, For Our Babies: Ending the Invisible Neglect of America’s Infants by J. Ronald Lally, is available and a suggested book club choice and conversation-starter.

Early Learning 2.0 with Families: Enriching Library Services for Families – Co-presenter, the California State Library, offered information on the ELF (Early Learning with Families) initiative. Through ELF, California libraries may receive training and resources to support family-friendly and developmentally appropriate services to aid families with children ages 0-5.

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20. Best laid plans? Alaac15

Sometimes best laid plans for ALA events don’t work out. It’s easy to get #alaleftbehind at #alaac15 when popular programs are presented in tiny rooms!

But, fun moments can come from a spontaneous reschedules! After seeing a super packed room, with librarians on the floor and 6 deep waiting at the doors, I went to wash a lunch stain off my shirt, and met a children’s librarian from Washington. We chatted outside the meeting room exchanging toddler storytime ideas and the pros and cons of working in independent libraries. Even though we missed a fun learning opportunity, we didn’t miss out completely on a chance to connect and learn! Small learning moments happen everywhere and anywhere at #alac15!


A sneak shot of the wonderful Saroj Ghoting presenting what was probably an interesting ALSC event.


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21. Changing Table Initiative Come to Fruition

This year, I was delighted to be appointed to the ALSC Early Childhood Programs and Services (ECPS) Committee under the fabulous leadership of Matt McLain.  Because ALSC members typically serve two years on a committee and thenTalk1 rotate out, when I began attending meetings they had already decided to create posters for parents to be displayed above or around changing tables in libraries, businesses, and other public places, highlighting the five practices from Every Child Ready to Read (Talk, Sing, Read, Write, Play). These early literacy practices posters would be downloadable and printable, and hopefully customizable.

The posters would be beautiful but simple, combining each of the five practices with a rhyme and a developmental tip. Our goal was to inspire parents to talk, sing, read, write and play with their children, beginning with one poster per practice initially,

All parents of young children need to change diapers. If visually appealing, easy-to-read posters were posted above changing tables in public locations, parents would likely glance up and see them during the diaper change. If the rhyme was short and familiar, and the language was easy to understand, our committee hoped that parents would actually recite the rhyme on the spot to their children. Using a simple developmental tip to accompany the rhyme would help parents understand that reciting rhymes with their children is a valuable activity that can help build important skills for the future. By combining the tips with easy, practical suggestions, our committee hoped to encourage parents to begin incorporating the five practices into everyday life with their child.

Research has indicated that there is a link between the number of vocabulary words children know and their economic background. Published in 2003, “The Early Catastrophe: The 30 Million Word Gap by Age 3” by researchers Hart and Risley demonstrated that during the first years of life, children from low-income families hear about 30 million words less than their peers who come from more affluent homes. Young children learn words by hearing them spoken by other human beings (not necessarily electronic media!); when parents speak with their babies, they are building neural connections in their children’s brains. In addition to building a larger vocabulary, the young brains are growing more synapses to enable easier learning later on in life.

The study by Hart & Risley determined that lower income parents were speaking less or using fewer words while in conversation with their children. Further studies made the connection between having larger vocabularies when entering kindergarten and higher rates of graduation from high school. Having a high school degree influences the type of job and salary a person can generally expect to get. It has also been shown to affect health outcomes, family stability, and lifetime earnings. Thus, the number of words a child knows when entering kindergarten can lead to disparities, increasing the economic divide in our country.

Yet this gap can be easily bridged; having a large vocabulary before entering kindergarten can make a difference!

With encouragement from the ALSC Board of Directors, the ALSC Early Childhood Programs and Services (ECPS) accepted the mission of addressing the 30 million word gap by creating posters to tell parents that babies need to hear words every day.

The ECPS committee held monthly online chats in addition to meeting at ALA Conferences and exchanging regular emails. At first, committee members submitted early literacy tips such as “Sing a rhyme (or do a fingerplay) while bathing or changing your baby,” for each of the five practices. Then we compiled a short list of rhymes to go along with each of the suggested tips. The rhymes had to be in the public domain; if there was any question about a rhyme’s copyright, the rhyme was excluded .The next step was to select an artist; Il Sung Na was chosen. Then, committee members looked through his books and videos in order to find images to match the tips or rhymes on each poster. Once this was done, ALSC secured rights with Random House to use those specific images.

Although the posters use simple language, it was not so simple to design them!  After the rhymes, tips, and illustrations were put together on posters, committee members weighed in on issues such as font size, placement of text, and spelling. Finally, the posters were ready and our excitement about increasing children’s exposure to language was growing.

Our “Babies Need Words Everyday” posters are now available for free download from the initiative’s webpage: http://www.ala.org/alsc/babiesneedwords . They are meant for EVERYONE: your library, community partners, businesses in your community, and families. At ALA Midwinter, the ECPS committee will be hosting a session called “Babies Need Words Everyday,” starting with keynote speaker Patti Miller from the Clinton Foundation’s Too Small to Fail initiative and followed by a panel discussion and a talk about the posters. Printed posters will be available at the session.

Our thanks go to the ALSC Board of Directors who were instrumental in this project’s success by funding the poster printing, ensuring their translation into Spanish,  and encouraging free distribution. Because of ALSC’s strong commitment to bridging the 30 million word gap, and the valuable work that can be done by a cohesive committee with strong leadership, the concept of creating posters for changing tables has become reality.

Please check out the posters at http://www.ala.org/alsc/babiesneedwords, join in the session at ALA, and volunteer to serve on an ALSC committee for the coming year. Together, we can make a difference.


Today’s guest blogger is Betsy Diamant-Cohen, posting on behalf of the ALSC Early Childhood Programs and Services Committee, of which she is a member. Betsy developed the Mother Goose on the Loose early literacy program; she enjoys consulting and presenting training workshops to fellow librarians.

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22. How to Read With Your Rising First Graders and Kinders This Summer

For parents of soon-to-be kindergartners and first graders, helping their children be prepared for the start of school can be exciting and daunting (and not just for students).

What can parents do over the summer to help their children maintain the growth they made this past year in preschool or kindergarten and be ready to tackle new topics and skills in the fall?

Below is one way parents can read and explore books over the summer. This model can be adapted for both fiction and nonfiction texts and follows how many teachers practice guided reading, which children may experience the first time in the upcoming school year.

I’m going to model how parents can practice reading using the text, David’s Drawings.

We do not need to, nor should we, ask every question for every book during every reading time. We may have only four minutes of our child’s attention one day and maybe twenty on another. The goal is not to drill our youngest learners in Common Core standards by the start of school.

Rather, the ultimate goal here is to show our beginning and soon-to-be readers how reading can be a joyful, positive experience. This mindset will set them up for the best start to their school journey.

Getting Ready to Read

1. Questions to ask and talk through with our rising kinders or first graders about the book:

  • Who is the author? / Show me where the author is on the cover. What does an author do?
  • Who is the illustrator? / Show me where the illustrator is on the cover. What does an illustrator do?
  • Where is the front cover? The back cover? The title page of the book?
  • As we read, which direction do we read the words?

2. Practice making predictions:

  • Together, look at the front cover. Using the title and picture on the cover, ask: what might happen in the story? What makes you think that?
  • Take a picture walk through the book. Ask: What do you think this story will be about? What do you notice when you look through this book?

3. Build background schema and draw on your child’s past experiences:

  • What do you know about drawing, or making a picture?
  • What types of things do you like to draw?
  • Where do artists get their ideas for drawings and paintings?
  • Who might help you draw a picture?

Reading the Book

  • As you begin to read, make sure the book is between both of you so your child can clearly see the text (and illustrations) and be in the position of the reader (rather than a regular listener at a group story time).
  • Make sure to point your finger to each word as it is read aloud. In doing so, your child can follow the text as well as the storyline and learn that we derive meaning from print—we in fact are not just making up a story to match the pictures we are seeing!

Video examples of parents reading with primary grade students:

After Reading

Discuss the meaning of the text. Here are some questions to check comprehension during and after the reading. (CCSS Key Ideas and Details)

  • Who is the main character? Or, who is David?
  • Where does the story take place? When does the story take place?
  • Where does David get his idea for his picture?
  • What details do his classmates add to David’s tree?
  • How does David feel when the other children draw on his picture? Share a time you felt the same way.
  • Why do you think David decides to make another drawing when he arrives home?
  • What does this story remind you of?
  • Could this really happen?
  • Do you think David is polite? Why or why not?
  • If you were to add one more page to the story, what do you think would happen next?
  • Why do you think the author, Cathryn Falwell, picks the title, David’s Drawings? Do you think this is a good title for the book? Why do you think so?
  • What do you think might happen the next time David starts a drawing in class?
  • Why do you think David isn’t shy anymore at the end of the story?
  • What was an interesting part for you in the story? Or, what part of the story made you smile? Why?

Video examples demonstrating book comprehension:

rising kinder readingExplore foundational skills and language:

  • Please show me a word that starts with the uppercase letter D. Show me a word that starts with the lowercase letter p.
  • Put your finger on a word that starts with b. Put your finger on a word that ends with e.
  • Can you think of another word you know that rhymes with day?
  • Can you show me a sentence that has a question mark at the end? A period? An exclamation point?
  • Can you show me a word that ends in –ed? –s?
  • Find a word that starts with the same letter as your name.
  • Find a word that ends with the same letter as your name.
  • Find a word that has a letter that is in your name.
  • Can you show me the (high frequency) words: the, of, and, a, to, you, on, I, me, my? Many primary grade classrooms build reading fluency with sight word practice. For a review for rising first graders or a peak for rising kinders, here are kindergarten high frequency word lists:

Post-Reading Activities

Done with sitting still? Time to move but keep the connections going!

1. Write or draw an answer to this question: Would you be friends with David?

2. Find a tree near school, at a park, or near your home. Sketch it using a pencil and then later decorate it.

3. Re-read the story or have another adult read the story—re-reading stories is great for helping children practice fluency, make predictions, retell events, and build confidence in eventually reading parts on their own.

For more further ideas on early literacy:

Jill Eisenberg, our Senior Literacy Expert, began her career teaching English as a Foreign Language to second through sixth graders in Yilan, Taiwan as a Fulbright Fellow. She went on to become a literacy teacher for third grade in San Jose, CA as a Teach for America corps member. In her weekly column at The Open Book, she offers teaching and literacy tips for educators. 

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23. Every Child Ready to… Talk Read Sing!: Partnership in Action

Talk Read Sing

Taken from the Talk Read Sing website

Talking is Teaching: Talk Read Sing, a campaign of Too Small to Fail, offers libraries tools for high-exposure partnerships in early literacy, and a clear alignment with Every Child Ready to Read through its targeted parent engagement strategies to close the 30 million word gap.

As an advertising campaign to parents, it works on the evidence that organized drives to change behavior are most effective when they use “nudges” to remind people to make small changes in their daily routines.  The campaign asks communities to organize its trusted messengers (us!) to work together, putting that consistent message “Talk Read Sing” in front of parents throughout their day, and throughout their city.  And it gives us plenty of tools to do it.

Oakland CA was the kickoff city for Talk Read Sing last summer.  Billboards on freeways and bus shelters still invite parents, in English and Spanish, to talk with their children through playful slogans: “Let’s talk about the bus” or “Let’s talk about the weather.”  Bibs and towels distributed in our libraries and elsewhere: “Let’s talk about food” and “Let’s talk about bath time.”  The branding and creative assets produced by the campaign are available to libraries and other organizations who register at Too Small to Fail’s Community site.

OPL Talk Read Sing enthusiast

A Talk Read Sing enthusiast at the Elmhurst Branch of the Oakland Public Library (photo courtesy of the author)

Here, the coordinated distribution of free materials was managed by First 5 Alameda County, in partnership with many organizations (including OPL) involved in Oakland Reads 2020, a community in the National Campaign for Grade Level Reading.  The Talk Read Sing campaign is a natural strategy for school readiness, and works seamlessly within Grade Level Reading campaigns.

Our rollout meetings provided a perfect opportunity for me to share our own OPL “Talk Sing Read Write Play” brochures, which we developed from the ECRR2 curriculum.  Despite the fact that ECRR2 promotes two additional elements, the message is clearly the same, and partners were thrilled to have local materials to weave into the campaign.  Boom: our library brochures went city wide.

If you have a Grade Level Reading Community or a functioning literacy collation, you have the perfect network to build a Talk Read Sing campaign in your community.   Introduce yourself as a partner who can help engage parents around teaching behaviors that will help everyone meet common goals for early literacy.  And if you don’t have such a network yet, this campaign is the perfect carrot to get one going.  See SPFL’s Christy Estrovitz’s presentation “Inspired Collaborations” for some tips.

For the public overview of the campaign, including free resources: http://talkingisteaching.org/

For the community campaigning materials, register at: http://toosmall.org/community

And find out more at ALA Annual, Sunday June 28 from 1-2pm, at Babies Need Words Every Day: Bridging the Word Gap as a Community


Our guest blogger today is Nina Lindsay, Children’s Services Coordinator at the Oakland Public Library, CA, who talks, reads, and—yes!—sings, every day.

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24. Neighbors Read

Mini-library in Rochester, MN.

Mini-library in Rochester, MN.

In 2013, Rochester Public Library, MN launched the Neighbors Read program in the Slatterly Park neighborhood with support from the United Way of Olmsted County. Through the Neighbors Read program the library connects with families of preschool children, bringing them to the library for early literacy activities and then planting a mini-library in their yards. With continued support from the United Way of Olmsted County, Neighbors Read is now in its third year and will continue into 2016. Each year, we make adjustments and improvements to the Neighbors Read program to better meet our goals and connect with the community.

The goals of Neighbors Read are to increase school readiness through early literacy information and programming and to increase access to books in economically diverse neighborhoods. Results have shown that preschoolers in the program have increased early literacy skills and families have increased engagement with the library. Families also reported an increased connection with their neighbors.

Rochesterites using the mini-libraries also have many positive things to say:

“We’re very glad to have a few of these mini-libraries in our neighborhood!”Postcard survey

“Whenever we visit our friends, my kids drop off and pick up a book. This is great!”

“This is awesome. I love having access to more books and it’s often such a brilliant variety. Thank you!”

In addition:

  • 76% of repeat mini-library users who responded to the postcard survey indicated that they read more in the previous month due to access to a mini-library.
  • 75% of mini-library users visit a mini-library once a week or more often.

Many other Rochester community members have purchased or built and installed their own mini-libraries. Through the generosity of the Friends of Rochester Public Library, RPL is able to provide a stock of free books to fill the boxes. Forty-two mini-library users are currently registered with the library and we have distributed over 6,600 books through their libraries. Registrants were surveyed in 2014 and the responses provide more evidence that the libraries not only provide books to community members, but build stronger neighborhoods.

“I’ve found many people love stopping to talk about the books when they see us outside. I’ve been told families will use visiting 3 to 5 libraries as a goal for their evening walks, thus encouraging them to get more exercise with the kids.”

“This is a conversation piece that helps us get to know the neighbors better.”

“Our neighborhood is economically diverse and the library provides books for kids who do not have books in their homes.”

Mini-library in Slatterly Park, Rochester, MN.

Mini-library in Slatterly Park,   Rochester, MN.

100% of the mini-library hosts who responded to the survey would choose to do it again based on their experience.

Neighbors Read is a powerful and time consuming program; some of the best programs can take the most work!  Every minute is worth it for the positive changes that it is bringing to our community.

Because of the success of Neighbors Read, a local leadership group has focused their efforts on a project to bring 40 more mini-libraries to Rochester. We are pleased to partner with them on this wonderful program. It is going to be a busy year once the ground thaws!


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25. Purposeful Play Programming

Ever envy those fabulous, expensive play spaces some libraries have? You can create a temporary, educational play environment within your existing library space that promotes adult interaction, is highly inclusive, and creates opportunities for outreach to the underserved.

Introducing, SMART STARTS!

Smart Starts (2) Smart Starts (5)

Three years ago, we founded Smart Starts, a hands-on, interactive environment where adults help children develop early reading, writing, math and science skills through fun play activities. This drop-in program is offered several times over the course of a few days during weeks we are not holding storytimes. Patrons can come anytime during the posted hours and stay as long as they wish.

The goal of Smart Starts is to provide a richer, more meaningful library experience where adults can play side-by-side with their children, enhancing learning experiences. Dad John Witte observed, “The chance to interact with other kids in a learning environment is valuable both for the kids and the parents.”

Each Smart Starts program has a theme, developed around an educational focus. Six to eight stations are created for each theme. PowerPoint slideshows display scrolling instructional slides featuring the various stations.

Smart Starts has allowed us to embrace the community’s educational initiatives as well as reach out to the underserved. We encourage community groups to schedule special sessions just for their members.


Wanted: Head Coach. Find a staff member who will lead others in choosing activities and gathering supplies. You could then recruit one person to find science experiments, another to work on crafts and a third to handle parent tips and extension activities, etc. Once planned, various individuals can run the program while it is open. Their role is to help visitors get started and model conversation and play behavior.


Brainstorm themes. These can be derived from educational initiatives in your community or staff interest and expertise. Many of our themes have been STEAM-related. For instance, we have created programs featuring air, measurement, plant growth, patterning and weather. After you have selected themes, search preschool curriculum books and websites for ideas for the activity stations. These might include . . .

Science Experiments

Smart Starts (9)Kids love to experiment with hands-on science. We have explored how polar bears stay warm in the arctic, compared the speed of objects traveling down ramps and practiced using all five senses. Imagine a child’s face when they smell cotton balls soaked in vanilla, mint, lemon or garlic!


Offer crafts that can be used to explore the subject further. A kaleidoscope promotes discussions of light. A feeder allows children to observe backyard birds. A texture collage may prompt additional investigation of the five senses at grandma’s house. These crafts should be accessible to a wide range of developmental levels. The emphasis is process, not product. I always say, “If it looks too much like the sample, something is wrong!”

Mini Library

Gather a collection of your library’s books, puzzles, and other resources related to your theme ready for check-out. We set out a couple of beanbag chairs for those who want to curl up with a book. We also provide a sheet explaining the educational research and suggesting extension activities. These materials promote further learning and exploration of the topic at home.


“Go Fish!” Games are a fun way to encourage learning and repeatedly practice skills. Create and laminate your own matching games and sequencing cards. Ask for donations of educational games and puzzles or scout for them at garage sales and re-sale stores. Kids also love to play with real objects made into a game. Sort small, medium and large kitchen items. Match socks or mittens. Make sets of 2, 5 and 10 blocks.

Other Activities

Here’s where you can get creative and courageous! Here are some ideas we have tried – with success!

  • Build walls with stones and play-dough
  • “Mess-free” fingerpaint using instant pudding in a sealed plastic bag
  • Bubblewrap hopscotch
  • Climb in various moving boxes
  • Guess the object based on its shadow
  • “Paint” a chalkboard with water
  • String cereal, beads, dry pasta and straw pieces on chenille wires and bending them into letter shapes
  • Create iSpy games with stickers, beads and sequins
  • Pretend to be a gardener with a shovel, rake, watering can, spray nozzle, silk flowers, etc.
  • Make up narrative stories with puppets or dollhouse figures

Tips for Success

Patrons are delighted that such an enriching program is not only available at the library, but free. Many intentionally add Smart Starts to their weekly schedule and arrange to meet friends. Mom Melissa Drechsel remarked, “I am homeschooling my kindergarten-aged daughters this year and Smart Starts has been the perfect complement to reinforce some of the things we are learning about at home. We have enjoyed the many activities at Smart Starts and I have recommended the program to many other mothers with little ones at home.”

Smart Starts (8) Smart Starts (7) Smart Starts (4) Smart Starts (3)

This program has also allowed us to interact with our patrons and attract previous non-users in a whole new way. Adults feel more comfortable to ask questions, and children enjoy playing with the library staff in this informal setting. The variety of activities and levels of engagement allows all children to participate, including those with special needs and beginning English language learners. We even host special sessions of Smart Starts for at-risk preschool classes, the local Newcomers chapter and young moms groups from area churches.

Once set-up, we offer the space at various times over the course of a few days. Themes may be repeated every year. This type of program is also be easily modified to a smaller scale or for outreach at local community events.

Author Diane Ackerman wrote, “Play is our brain’s favorite way of learning.” Through activity programs such as Smart Starts, we can provide a fun, educational environment at our libraries to help equip our local children for a life of learning.

(All photos courtesy Glen Ellyn Public Library)


Photo by Stephanie Blackwell/GEPL

Photo by Stephanie Blackwell/GEPL

Our guest blogger today is Bari Ericson, Youth Programming Associate at the Glen Ellyn Public LibraryBari enjoys combining her experience as an art student, corporate paralegal, law firm librarian, preschool teacher and mom to serve local families at GEPL.

Please note that as a guest post, the views expressed here do not represent the official position of ALA or ALSC.

If you’d like to write a guest post for the ALSC Blog, please contact Mary Voors, ALSC Blog manager, at [email protected].

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