Idea Roundup, Part 2

To continue with yesterday’s idea roundup, today I want to explore additional library programs focused on early literacy and see if I can begin to work out some patterns in what is already successfully being done, and to consider what we might do in our own libraries as well.

Literacy Totes & Kits
The Sandusky (OH) library received a grant to establish a collection of literacy totes intended to enable parents/caregivers to purposefully and effectively promote early literacy with their children.

Providence Public Library has something similar. Watch this video to see what it looks like!

Simple Downloadable Resources
The NYPL has a section for early literacy resources that is written in accessible language, and most of it is available in Spanish as well (though it is probably needed in lots of other languages too!). I love this simple set of infographics and suggested activities that give parents very simple and very accessible tips.


The rest of this page has resources for families throughout the community – cultural experiences, places to take your child and explore, even links to community health resources and other resources families may need at home. This could be viewed as a subtle way the library can demonstrate its investment in families as a whole and understanding of families’ needs in a broad sense, generating trust in the community.

Engaging Culture
Providence Public Library has a cool series called Family Learning Sundays. One Sunday a month, they do something culturally based and interesting. Cultural learning promotes a sense of self, interest in other people’s way of life, gives a vocabulary for varied experiences, and is just interesting and fun!



Idea Roundup, Part 1

Today I have been looking around at various children’s library websites to see what interesting ideas are out there – for spaces, programs, early literacy promotion, and more. I want to round up my ideas and observations here.

An Interactive Presentation on Children and Literacy


(image: screenshot from the Prezi linked below)

Here’s a cool Prezi presentation that walks through some of the brain research regarding early learning and development in children, specifically incorporating literacy ideas. This would be a great presentation to share on our website or on social media, because it’s a bright, interesting, interactive presentation and easy for parents to view at their own pace.

Prezi doesn’t play nice with wordpress, so here’s the link: Early Literacy & You

Queens Library Children’s Discovery Center

I’ve been looking at the Queens Library website – because this is a library with a huge, innovative space and I want to know more.



Look at this bright, light, beautiful space. Notice, too, these interactive stations shown in this picture. These stations include discovery about insects, magnets, mirrors, and other hands-on topics. And now let’s look at a screen shot of a cool feature of the library’s website…


What I love about this is how the library website links a hands-on activity to suggested books that children can look at in the library or check out to further explore an idea. It’s brilliant that the design team has set this up so well – a family can come into the library, explore an interactive station, and then find additional resources for exploration of the theme of that interactive station.

I’m impressed by the continuity between the website and the physical space, and how we could use our web resources to provide additional resources and opportunities for learning around the themes of our storytimes or programs.

Swing Into Stories

Here’s an absurdly simple, really fabulous, super easy idea for getting the word out and engaging the community.


To quote the SFPL website:

The Green Bookmobile is going to play at the park! Movement and play are an important part of growing into a reader. So we’re partnering with the San Francisco Recreation and Parks Department to bring reading and stories to where young children are movin’ and groovin’ outside. That’s the park, of course.

The Green Bookmobile has a variety of juvenile, teen and adult materials available for check out with an SFPL library card. The mobile library is able to circulate materials, create library cards, and provide the public with information about library services and programs.

Come to the playground and hit the swings with a good book or take some books home to cuddle up with later.

File this one under “Now why didn’t I think of that?” The park, the county rec center, the play area at the mall – all over the community are places people go with their kids. I’ve looked a lot at ways to bring play into the library, but I hadn’t thought of taking the library to places where children are at play. The opportunities for library-community partnership are many.

Research Time, Part 5: Expanding the concept of early literacy skills

In today’s post, I want to talk a little about Tess Prendergast’s fascinating article “Growing Readers: A Critical Analysis of Early Literacy Content for Parents on Canadian Public Library Websites” (2013).

What is particularly notable for me in this article is how Prendergast pushes out the walls of the concept of “early literacy” – not only reinforcing the core concepts that we have already identified (including things like early literacy skills and practices), but embracing the complementary idea that early literacy also involves concepts like diversity and that the broader experience of the child is part of early literacy as well.  Prendergast’s article is challenging to my perspective; perhaps it will challenge yours in a good way as well.

So let’s take a tour through this piece.



Prendergast first embarks on a survey of public-library websites to look at what she finds with regard to the content of those websites, and how they discuss their early literacy programs and storytimes. She describes her findings as follows:

A word-level analysis of 150 unique storytime descriptions reveals that the ten most frequently used words across all 20 libraries’ listings were: songs, rhymes, stories, fun, books, fingerplays, learning, interactive, love, reading. Considered together, these ten words reveal the essence of most library storytimes. (p. 239)

She also finds that other aspects of storytime are emphasized, such as parent/caregiver bonding with children, preparing for kindergarten, cultural observances such as Diwali, and the simple fact of storytime being an enjoyable activity with children.

But Prendergast finds something that may come as a surprise: representation of diversity of ability is dramatically underrepresented. Librarians, this means that even if our storytimes are welcoming to children of many ability levels, we may not be getting that message across! Although it may be more beneficial for us to express this overtly, Prendergast suggests:

although not overtly welcoming to children with developmental challenges, program descriptions that welcome all “ages and stages” provide an example that sounds more inclusive of children with developmental differences. This phrase may be all that is needed to allay the concerns of parents of children who have developmental delays and disabilities, who may wonder if and how their children will be welcomed and included. (p. 243)

Parents of children who learn or behave differently than their peers may look for evidence that their child will be welcomed. I have explored some ways we can accommodate children with these differences in this post, and Prendergast highlights the importance of not only doing this, but expressing that we do this so that families know that they are welcome.

Prendergast also explores subtle ways that our web presence can signal diversity and inclusion, such as visual representation of children of diverse heritage and diverse ability in our web and print content.

In discussing her findings, however, Prendergast now shifts to a profoundly important, if disquieting, discussion of the limitations of our understanding of early literacy. She argues that our understanding of early literacy practices is limited to that found in ECRR/ECRR2 and library-industry information about early literacy which is primarily based on ECRR/ECRR2. But…

The problem with ECRRR being the primary “go to” resource for early literacy in the field of children’s librarianship (and therefore appearing frequently on library websites) stems from the resource’s very narrow view of early literacy and how this narrow view might limit its inclusiveness of and relevance for the diverse communities served by public libraries.  […] no evidence of a broader view of early literacy, beyond the skills-based, reading readiness frame, was found on any of the sites examined, nor did any of the links provided on these sites lead to resources that convey a broader view of early literacy. Of particular concern is the fact that none of the libraries’ websites portrayed a nuanced understanding that all families engage in and support their young children’s learning in ways that are culturally important to them, and that this support may not look like Western notions of early literacy (i.e., reading books to young children).(p. 246)

Prendergast cites Hamer and Adams’ proposed broader definition of early literacy as follows:

the experiences, practices, attitudes and knowledge experienced by young children in multiple settings that contribute to their understanding, enjoying, engaging with and using oral, visual and written language and symbols of their own and other cultures to express their individual identity and allow active participation in literate society.

Quite a left turn from our traditional understanding of early literacy – but I think that we absolutely must see the value in it. Consider the ways in which language is culturally bound, the role of a child’s interacting with the environment in shaping language learning, the benefit for a young person to see concepts that are relevant to his or her own cultural milieu in his or her education.

Prendergast goes on to say:

Expanded views of early literacy (i.e., those that go beyond things like phonological skills and school readiness) can help practitioners learn about ways that literacy skills can be developed for children labelled with a variety of disabilities. These expanded, flexible, and inclusive views of early literacy and the ways that libraries’ collections, programs, and services can support them should be made evident on library webpages for parents and caregivers to see.  (p. 248)

In this conclusion, then, I feel that Prendergast has proposed a bit of a seismic shift in our definition of early literacy, and this is appropriate and useful, in a big-picture, sociocultural-understanding sense. The subsequent recommendations in an on-the-ground sense are also useful and can provide us with some ways forward:

  1. Create parent pages on our websites that will help parents understand specifically what we offer and what they can do to support their children’s literacy development. Include information about our inclusion of children with differing needs!
  2. Translate web content into non-English languages. (This is fairly easily automated now – and in some communities this is an increasing must-do.)
  3. Expand our portrayal of early literacy skills and abilities on our websites. Include information about early literacy’s cultural and heritage components.
  4. Visual representation of diversity on our web and print materials.
  5. Relax our storytime rules to create a more relaxed, welcoming environment.



Prendergast, T. (2013). Growing readers: A critical analysis of early literacy content for parents on Canadian public library websites. Journal of Library Administration, 53(4), 234-254.

Now Hear This! Incorporating Early Literacy Messages into Storytimes

I came across this article that was so immediately relevant that I definitely had to blog it to share it with you! Melissa Depper has written about making early literacy messaging in the context of storytime simple by offering a simple and usable process for defining and describing early literacy practices.

Here’s Depper’s process, which is called the Parent Literacy Connection:

  • an activity (book, song, rhyme, fingerplay, flannelboard, game, and so on) designed for the children and supporting an early literacy skill or practice and
  • a conversational, brief, early literacy message delivered to the adults.

The messaging contains four potential parts:

  1. The Activity Statement “provides a natural transition from a storytime activity to the literacy message.” This is the time to tell the group what we’re doing to highlight the activity for parents and draw their attention to it. (A side note: This is helpful for children, too, because providing predictable transition moments helps children move from one activity to another successfully.)
  2. The Skill Statement “lets parents know that what they do with their children makes a difference.” This is the time to highlight the learning or development that occurs during each and every interaction between a child and parent or caregiver.
  3. The Good Readers Statement “gives parents and caregivers the … practical outcome of building early literacy skills.”When we do this, it gives parents a concrete early literacy concept and explains to them specifically how they are contributing to it with their specific literacy practices.
  4. The Practice Statement “reinforces the ‘practice of the month’ for the parents and caregivers, and it provides consistent, recognizable closure to the literacy message.” In the author’s library, one practice receives focus for a month at a time, to provide consistent exposure to these practices and their outcomes.

Here’s a sample script for actually using these messages in storytime:

Screen Shot 2016-11-06 at 1.46.49 PM.png

See how the activity and the message connect what you’re doing in storytime to something that parents and caregivers can do with their children outside of storytime. It’s also noteworthy how this sample script brings together components of ECRR1 and ECRR2 by addressing both the skills and the practices of early literacy.

After hearing this message, when a parent sings an animal song with her child, perhaps it will trigger the thought in her head: “Gosh, the storytime leader said that something as simple as this can actually help my child learn to read!” or prompt him to think of the numerous opportunities he has during the day to influence his child’s learning just having little conversations about things they experience in their environment together.

I am sharing this messaging template with you because I think it is a useful way to arrange our thoughts about storytime and early literacy messaging. Sometimes parent education can be a little intimidating – we might think we’re talking too much, or parents aren’t hearing or connecting with what we’re saying. So reducing our thoughts to a simple template gives us an opportunity to say what we need to say in relatively few words, so that we can efficiently and effectively share the message with parents and caregivers.


Depper, M. (2014). Now Hear This! Incorporating Early Literacy Messages into Storytimes. Children and Libraries, 12(1), 16-18.



Demco Webinar: Updating a Kids’ Library Space

Demco is an online/catalog shop for library supplies and furniture. They’ve got everything. Today when I was looking at their website for some images to inspire me, I came across a webinar they produced looking at the overhaul of a library kids’ space. I was a little skeptical – a little afraid it would just be an hour-long commercial for Demco products – but actually there was some useful information here, which I am capturing for this blog post.

Watch the whole thing here.

Some highlights…

Play is unstructured – kids decide what to do with the materials they have in front of them. It builds brain pathways and creates a developmental foundation for future learning. It can help create cooperation, empathy, negotiation, learning through trial and error.

Why should we promote play in the library? It’s part of the library’s mission of promoting achievement and learning in children – empowering kids to learn in all realms. It provides an opportunity to create community connections.

Barrington Library update…

This update went on in 2013-2014 and renovated all the library’s public space with an $8.5 million budget – but let’s look for opportunities to do this on the smaller scale!

The library update draws from the idea of multiple intelligences, the idea that we can encourage learning and play in multiple domains:


And here are some of the goals of the project – a screenshot from the webinar itself.


The webinar team also provided some details about using the space to deal with traffic flow, noise, and other factors – they observed that this created some additional work and focus for staff as well, just in terms of organizing and cleaning and maintaining the space (and even designated a staff person as “Play Coordinator”!). They talked about some of the feedback they received on the project, both positive and negative.

And they talked about metrics for evaluating the amount of time children spent interacting with the items they chose for their space. Measuring success was a useful part of this webinar. Here’s a screenshot of some of their evaluation of the program:


Included items in the updated play space:

  • Pretend marketplace
  • Foam blocks for building
  • A big slide!
  • Costumes

Other programs that they created along with their space updates:

  • Process art (drop-in, all ages) – explore various mediums and sensory elements
  • Family fort building (child + caregiver) – positive shared experience

The take-aways

There were so many good ideas in this presentation! The fact is that most of us are not undergoing an $8 million dollar renovation to our spaces. Most of us are going to cobble together a few thousand dollars here and there to do updates and programs in our libraries. That’s fine – just imagine the possibilities where we are right now!

Picture how we could take a basic space and add some interactive elements to it, maybe some comfortable seating for Mom or Dad – promote it a little – use some easily acquired supplies to invite families to participate in some interactive programs – and grow it from there.

This was a super interesting and useful webinar for thinking about spaces and programs in my own libraries. I recommend it!


Research Time, Part 4: iPads in Early Childhood Literacy Teaching

For today’s post, I am exploring the use of technology as a teaching tool.

An assumption…

I think the more I study children and technology this semester, the more I am realizing that the question I asked weeks ago – is technology a help or a hindrance? – perhaps is no longer all that useful a question. To an extent, now, I think that ship has sailed, and I think we have to assume that children are using technology whether that’s a good thing or a bad thing or somewhere in between. I think this is coming out in the research too.

This article, from a 2010 STEM journal, bypasses the question of help or hindrance altogether and studies how iPads were used for emerging literacy with pre-K aged children.



iPads in the study classroom…

…developed print awareness in child users, by encouraging those users to understand the use of and meaning of visual cues in print on their screens.

…developed users’ understanding of situational print to connect icons to apps.

…allowed children to express themselves in pre-writing and writing activities, including drawing, scribbling, and arranging letters to form their own names as well as classmates’ names.

…gave children an opportunity to type letters before they could write them by hand, creating early letter awareness skills.

…created opportunities to talk about the functions of writing, such as writing for someone else to read it.

…connected reading, writing, listening, and seeing in one app setting.

…allowed children to manipulate text and layout of stories.

…created opportunities for social learning and interaction.

The conclusion

Preschool teachers have traditionally given children experiences, pathways to print, with traditional print-based texts and tools to prepare children for more formal reading and writing instruction in subsequent years of schooling. However, as digital technology becomes more important, the conceptions of literacy and instruction students will receive may be changing to include the integration of technology. The iPad, in particular, is one tool that young children can navigate and use independently. This case study indicates that children can develop emerging knowledge about print in digital contexts using an iPad, or a similar tablet, and that it offers unique ways to employ reading, writing, listening, and speaking within one context. (p. 23)

Implications for early literacy professionals

The use of technology in early literacy learning in school settings is still being worked out, so it stands to reason that the use of technology in library settings is also to be worked out as time progresses.

But what this study does is it illuminates the ways in which technology can be used to promote literacy learning, which in turn provides some benchmarks against which we can evaluate how different apps and platforms go about promoting literacy learning. It paints an excellent picture of how technology actually can benefit young learners.

To that end, it provides a foundation for evaluation of tools. In a prior post, I explored early literacy apps for the purpose of making parent-side recommendations, and in a future post, I plan to explore early literacy tools for the purpose of making library-side recommendations.


Beschorner, B. & Hutchison, A. (2013). iPads as a literacy teaching tool in early childhood. International Journal of Education in Mathematics, Science and Technology, 1(1), 16-24.

Research Time, Part 3: Effectiveness of Community-Based Early Literacy Efforts

Today I am continuing a tour of research journals looking at various aspects of teaching early literacy behaviors and practices to children and parents. Today I am looking at some research regarding a community-based initiative and exploring its potential effectiveness. What can we glean from research such as this? It can tell us strategies that have already been used, the effectiveness of those strategies, and the means by which researchers gauge program effectiveness.  These are all points of information that can be useful in designing and evaluating our own strategies.



Early literacy fundamentals

These are the fundamentals of the early literacy interventions in this study. These interventions are actions on the part of the library or librarian intended to promote early literacy behaviors with families.

All of the intervention efforts included the following practices:

  • Distribute high quality books for infants through multiple sites and community agencies. Child librarians compiled a list of age appropriate and culturally relevant books
  • Model reading behavior with the parents. This include pointing to pictures and telling a story about the pictures, making up or telling new stories in Spanish or English, and sharing an intimate and a nurturing experience with their children
  • Stress the importance of having a regular reading routine at home
  • Promote the use of public library services and literacy programs
  • Inform the parents about the important role they play in preparing their children for school

These efforts should look pretty familiar to us  at this point – they are classic techniques in early literacy strategies.

Here are some additional strategies from the programs studied.

  • Visits from a health worker, who would bring to each family “a gift bag that included a cardboard book for their infant, an application for a library card, and a voucher for a free baby T-shirt redeemable at the public library” and referrals to ESOL services.
  • Parenting classes in the public library, including reading practices with children
  • Distribution of books in healthcare settings

Literacy promotion metrics

Another aspect of this study which is particularly interesting to me is the set of metrics used to measure early literacy behaviors. These are behaviors parents engage in with their children that in some way promote early literacy.

These behaviors include classic literacy promotion behaviors such as parents looking at books with their children – as well as behaviors you might not see on every list such as parents going to the park with children. Here’s the whole list:

  • Showing books to child
  • Reading books
  • Playing with child
  • Drawing pictures together
  • Hugging and cuddling
  • Going to the park
  • Visiting the library
  • Attending an event at the library
  • Participate in local literacy initiative at the library

The take-away

This article demonstrated that the early literacy efforts made in these programs was correlated in some way to increases in the identified literacy activities. Though the study was limited in some ways and can’t tell us the mechanism by which this is the case, and also cannot establish causation, the good news of this study is that it gives us some insight as to how we could make an impact in our communities, and what daily behaviors of families are important.

We can use these metrics to encourage families to do activities that go beyond reading and writing and are easily incorporated into their social context, and we can use them to explain how everyday activities impact a child’s early literacy learning as well.

It is possible that to some extent, the simple fact of highlighting the importance of early literacy-related behaviors in families and empowering parents to have an impact on their child’s development motivates not only literacy activities such as reading, but related activities such as going to the park, or having their child contribute to the grocery shopping or cooking, or even just spending time together connecting. Seen in this way, literacy development is a big-picture concept and influenced in numerous ways.


Peifer, K., & Perez, L. (2011). Effectiveness of a coordinated community effort to promote early literacy behaviors. Maternal and child health journal, 15(6), 765-771.