This semester, my blog has been a collection of sometimes-big, sometimes-small, thoughts and ideas and things I’ve found on the web. I want to use the last post for this class to recap the sum total of what I’ve discovered through creating this blog. In Part 2, I’ll reflect on what I’m summarizing here.
Children and Technology
The use of technology with children is a matter that still needs a great deal more work and research. We need to understand better how children’s brains respond when technology is used, and how technology influences learning. But here are some things I’ve learned so far:
The upside: Technology can present information and activities to students; assess students’ work; respond to students’ work; provide scaffolds, such as access to word pronunciation and definitions, that help students read successfully. Literacy apps can bring simple books and literacy activities to children’s fingertips.
The downside: Electronics use can have a negative impact on children’s well-being and require special attention from parents, caregivers, schools, and medical professionals.
The reality: We may have to assume that children are using technology day in and day out and we will need to find ways to harness this for positive purposes.
Children’s programming is exciting, interesting, and multidimensional.
Experts in our field are using materials, spaces, and programs to create relationships with families and children. How we present our spaces and our programs can demonstrate that we understand what families experience on a daily basis, can demonstrate what’s really important to us, and deserve consideration and thought.
Children with special needs can be accommodated in our storytimes with a little thought and adaptation.
Hands-on activities can enrich what we already offer and provide additional learning opportunities. This can include STEM activities (and more STEM activities), activities linked to children’s interests, activities related to books we already know children enjoy, and cultural presentations that stimulate learning in many dimensions. We can intentionally approach learning with our children patrons by borrowing from early childhood education experts.
Early Literacy Fundamentals
We know that there are early literacy practices that promote learning in children, and stages that children go through while developing their literacy skills. We know that deficits arise when children aren’t exposed to these practices, and we also know that there are differences in children’s inherent learning styles. Some children seem to absorb literacy activities readily, and others experience difficulty learning these concepts. Research has broken down the processes of learning to read into very fine points of detail at the brain processing level. Literacy instruction can support learning at this level by supporting the particular brain functions involved in developing these skills.
We can have an impact with struggling readers – just by doing the things we do every day.
But early literacy skills are not just the skills involved in decoding and understanding words on pages, or words read aloud. Early literacy is a big concept that involves cultural and diversity factors which we need to take into consideration in order to approach early literacy holistically.
More and more, we are becoming aware that there is a wide spectrum of ability and learning style among children that we can respond to for the benefit of all children. As schools are learning to differentiate their instruction, we need to learn to differentiate our technique as well.
Simple adaptations can make storytime more accessible for children with some special needs.
But from a literacy standpoint, perhaps the most important things we can do is to connect kids and books, provide literacy support, and create opportunities for kids to experience reading success in a safe environment.
We say it over and over and over: Parents are their child’s first and best teacher. So how do we partner in that?
We can make our facilities speak to appreciating the needs of families with children.
We can speak clearly and practically about how literacy practices and literacy skills link up – without prattling on or finding the whole conversation awkward or intimidating.
Play in the Library
Perhaps it is clear from my blog content that I think that play is essential for children and their development, and that I would prioritize play in importance over academics or academic-prep activities, for the reason that it promotes early literacy learning as well as other developmental features. So thinking about play and how to incorporate play in our libraries is exciting for me. This is one of my areas of bias after years and years in preschool-land, so I want to look at how to translate this over to library-land.
We can make our spaces more play-friendly – with or without significant monetary investment. Some libraries have already undergone significant space updates to allow the space to more intentionally support play, relationship building, and learning in the library.
Something we can do that will create investment from library stakeholders – and parents too – is to create intentional linking between innovative play-based library activities and traditional library functions such as the book collection.
Resources & Recommendations
Parents may come to us asking questions about all kinds of things. Hopefully we make ourselves such good advocates for their children that they come to us all the time asking questions! So to have resources at the ready will benefit us and them! Here are some I found.
How can we tie in STEM activities with early literacy? Why is this even a thing to talk about on a blog about early literacy activities? I would argue that it is more than a trend or a buzzword; it is a set of activities, thought processes, and practices that will enable us to be more hands-on with our activities, diversify our practices, and make space for children to learn additional skills (such as vocabulary, problem-solving, social-emotional skills, and learning from mistakes) in the context of our own practice.
STEM can look like play – and perhaps at its best, it is play – just it’s play with a learning component.