Everyday Early Literacy Fair

Early Literacy Fair flyer

Part of my role as Youth Services Librarian is to develop community partnerships in support of families and literacy. One partnership I love, although it meets somewhat infrequently, is the Language and Literacy Task Force. We’re a group of professionals from local early childhood organizations that meet to discuss ideas, strategies, issues, challenges and potential collaborative projects. One of the projects we developed together was the Early Literacy Fair which was held at the library in the Fall of 2015. I’m writing about it now, because we are in the planning stages of the 2nd annual event.

The fair came to be after talking to families about what early literacy support they needed and wanted beyond what I share in storytime, in the monthly Growing Readers newspaper column, and brochures, handouts, etc. What I heard from multiple parents with older children (K+), was that when their kids were little they felt like they knew a lot about early literacy, but in actuality, they discovered later, they did not. Sone parent recommended targeting kids and whole families- proposing that the kid-focused approach to the event would be more effective than a parent education class or workshop. We took that advice to heart and felt we could design an event that would include parents that were already confident, but might benefit from more information and strategies, as well as families who might be intimidated by the class or workshop format and need a lot of information. The partnership aspect also helped us target families new to the library but familiar with other community organizations and services.

We designed the successful event based on Every Child Ready to Read’s five early literacy practices and created five associated stations. Four different organizations managed the five stations (2 representatives from one organzation were included). The event took place on a Saturday in the children’s library so anyone dropping by could also participate if they wanted. Most of our programs for young children happen during the week because of limited staffing, so this was a great opportunity to support families who can’t make it Monday through Friday.

At each station, families found tips on how to support one aspect of early literacy at home. They collected the tips, printed on cards, and took home a set of five to help them remember what they learned. And more importantly to the under 8 crowd, each station also had a fun, hands-on activity for young children related to the early literacy practice.

The Stations

Reading station image #1

Reading Station 2 image

Reading Station 3 image

Reading: I organized the reading station and featured great books, in all formats. I also featured one of my “10 Ways to Explore a Book” posters . I talked about different ways to read a book to young children, depending on the child, the context, and the content. (Yes- it should remind you of Lisa Guernsey’s 3 C’s for digital media use with young children.) Caregivers could take information about getting a library card, our storytime programs, accessing the library’s digital library, and digital media with young children. Kids could play with a tray full of magnetic letters and create words, spell their name, etc. We offered free books while supplies lasted. We had some funds to purchase a small amount of books from the local bookstore and the rest were donated.

Talking Station 1 image

Talking Station 2 image

Talking: Kids were able to build a snack bag at this table and a local speech therapist modeled for families how to build a conversation around everyday activities and add vocabulary to make for rich conversation by talking about what foods they were adding to the bag, for example. We also included a sensory bin full of dried beans and an assortment of plastic fruits and vegetables. I made laminated cards with the name and image of the same fruits and vegetables found in the bins so families could play a find game and match the plastic version with the photo/word version. I’ve used these sensory bins in a food storytime as well.

Playing: A local educator from a community environmental organization brought puppets and a variety of natural history materials to play with in a dramatic play station. I forgot to take a picture of this station, but it was a nice tie-in for the many families in our community who are outdoor-oriented.

Singing Station 1

Singing Station 2 image

Singing: This station was a hit with young makers! It featured homemade shakers and a representative from the local early childhood services organization supplied plastic eggs, dried beans and rice, and colorful duct tape for the musical instruments. She provided tips on why singing is important for early literacy and shared musical books that are fun to read and might interest families. She included lyrics to fun rhymes and songs in the take home tips and featured some of the CDs from the library’s children’s music collection.

Writing Station 1 image

Writing Station 2 image

Writing: A woman from the ELL program at the local college with many years experience in early literacy and family engagement provided tips on incorporating writing into everyday activities. She talked with families on a one-to-one basis about what writing looks like at different ages and stages. She was near the library’s windows so she provided kids with window markers to draw on the windows (washes off easily), small notebooks for kids to write and draw in at the library and then take home, and a variety of coloring/writing tools like gel pens, markers, and crayons pencils.

Homer’s Great Reading Adventure, part 2: The Data

Now that we are a few weeks beyond the end of summer reading, my library’s tech specialist and I have playing with the data side of the Great Reading Adventure (GRA). (See more about our first summer using GRA here.) The numbers are valuable, not just for data geeks, but also for those interested in the financial side of things, local school staff and administrators, and those of us involved in the summer program’s long term plans. The numbers aren’t the whole picture, but they will help us paint a clearer, more expansive one.

For each piece of data we’ve looked at so far, I’ve explained it below, mentioned who it interests, and posed questions as a result of seeing the info in a new, detailed way.

Summer@HPL 2016 Overview image

City of Homer Population: 5,310 Library Service Area: 12,000+/-

The Data

For families, the Great Reading Adventure digital log was the one and only place to register for the 2016 summer program. Once registered, they recorded reading minutes for the reading challenge in the digital log. (Note: We did offer a one page log, for families who wanted to log time online only periodically, at the library for example.) Additionally, families used the platform for a few other things.

  • The GRA was one of several places they could find details about events (in addition to the library’s online calendar, etc.). We did not use it for event registration since most events did not require registration. (We used a web form on our library’s site in those cases.)
  • All registered family members could earn digital badges for specific amounts of reading time and when they entered secret codes found around town at events.
  • Participants could message the two of us managing the GRA with questions about the digital log, about the summer program, or library services in general.

As I mentioned, we used the GRA, in part, for the data! So here’s what we have learned so far:

    • We were able to look at the number of kids and teens who registered for the reading challenge and picked up at least one prize versus kids and teens who registered, but didn’t participate at all. Interestingly, almost every child and teen who logged time and picked up the first prize was hooked and kept participating.

      Who: This info is helpful for me, the one who plans the budget and buys prizes, etc. It’s also helpful for the library director and the Friends of the Library, the main funder of the summer program.

      Questions: Why didn’t some children, teens, or adults participate after registering? How many prizes do we need to buy for 2017? Can we incorporate more digital badges into the prize schedule, replacing some of the physical prizes and saving money?

    • Many kids and teens self-reported their school affiliation at registration which let us share some general data with schools about numbers of kids participating, total minutes logged, etc. (More on the school connection later.)

      Who: Obviously this is of interest to school administrators who want to support summer learning, but also to both me and the library director.

      Questions: Are we reaching families at schools with low participation? If not, why?

    • We analyzed the number of kids, teens, and adults registered in total and when they registered. This was important for knowing when and where to focus our outreach, marketing, and money. I have traditionally attended multiple Spring community events, intending to register lots of families. Last year I finally admitted that attending these events has value, but the registration numbers at these events are not an indicator of how many families will ultimately register or attend events. Now I had proof that I was right! This data is already helping guide our plans for 2017. The increase in family participation, the consistent number of child participants, and high general success with the digital log supported our decision to move from paper to digital.

      Who: This information is most valuable to me as the person who does all of the outreach and makes the overall decisions about the summer program. It is also useful to general library staff and families who might have questions about the switch from the traditional paper log booklet (for kids) and archaic digital log (for teens and adults) to the robust digital log for all ages.

      Questions: How can we make the digital log even easier for families to use, even with limited internet access? Can we have a designated logging station? Will the app in development meet more families’ needs?

    • We integrated the GRA digital badges into our summer program and were able to identify which badges were most popular- those accessed using secret codes posted at city parks as part of a community-wide scavenger hunt. This part of the summer program was even more of a hit than we thought it would be.

      The posted secret codes advertised the summer program to passersby and made a connection with the city’s parks and rec department staff and program.

      2016 SummerHPL Bishop's beach Secret Code image

      2016 SummerHPL Bishop’s Beach Secret Code

      Some families collected secret codes at all of our library events also, but that part of the program is still in its infancy and will be developed more for next year.

      The scavenger hunt aspect of the secret codes was a nice, but unexpected, segue into Pokémon GO fever which hit the country and our community at the tail end of the summer program. Families hunted for codes and completed a Maker Club-made scavenger hunt in the library and then started playing Pokemon Go with us at the library and around town. It all made for an active summer!

      Who: This information was useful mostly for me, as the program manager. Other staff and city employees are also interested.

      Questions: How do we develop more opportunities to engage the community in the summer program beyond the library’s walls? How do we harness the attention these secret codes received to include more families in the reading challenge and the summer program in general?

Becoming a Media Mentor: The Book is Here!

Becoming a Media Mentor book cover

We just got word that our book, Becoming a Media Mentor: A Guide for Working with Children and Families is now ready to ship! Cen Campbell, the Association for Library Service to Children, and I are happy to finally be able share the book with you.

Librarians are lifelong learners, experienced researchers, and excellent communicators- all skills we can use to mentor families as they navigate media and literacy in the digital age. The book is full of useful information that will help library staff as we evolve our roles as children’s librarians and continue to support families in new ways.

Are you interested in a recent webinar, Media Mentorship and Family Engagement in the Digital Age, that I led with Chip Donohue from the TEC Center at Erikson Institute and ALSC ? Find the link to the webinar and resources we discussed here. Find my Media Mentor’s Reading List here.

You can find out more about the book here, order it here, or contact me to ask questions, comment about the book, etc.

Summer Reading 2016, It’s a Wrap!

This past Saturday we finished up the 2016 summer reading and learning program. The 10 week program included the reading challenge and 53 programs designed to support families’ reading and learning as well as help them connect with the library in positive ways. The new digital log we’re using, the Great Reading Adventure, is giving us more data to pour over in the weeks to come, but in the meantime, I can report the summer was a success! Whole families participated more than ever, many new-to-the-library families enjoyed our variety of informal learning programs for the first time, and we were able to capitalize on the warm weather and encourage families to explore and play at city parks by planting summer reading secret codes around town.

Summer@HPL Ice Cream Celebration Sticky Wall image

Beginning of the Summer@HPL Ice Cream Celebration Sticky Wall

The Ice Cream Celebration we hold for kids at the end of each summer program was telling of this year’s success. Even with a smaller number of attendees than last year, the experience families had at the event was extremely positive. We replaced several carnival games with maker type activities (think LEGO building, play dough challenges and Harry Potter wand making) so the balance between prize winning and creative play was more even. Kids were happy and busy, instead of desperately running from game to game in search of more little plastic doo-dads, and they still left with a few prizes, free books, and bellies full of ice cream. We’re fostering lifelong learning and ‘making’ from an early age!

I’m shifting gears slightly and attending the Language Development and Family Engagement in the Digital Age Institute in DC this week, but I’ll share more stats from the summer reading and learning program, as well as final assessment of our Great Reading Adventure experience, when I return.

A Media Mentor’s Reading List

A media mentor:

  • supports children & their families in their media decisions & practice around media use.
  • has access to and shares recommendations for and research on children’s media use.*

In honor of the webinar I’ll be hosting today with Chip Donohue and Tamara Kaldor from the TEC Center at Erikson Institute and ALSC (Media Mentors and Libraries: Family Engagement in the 21st Century), I compiled a reading list for the aspiring media mentor. Many of the organizations listed alongside these resources are actively involved in research related to kids and digital media and you should follow them to hear the latest! Want to suggest a resource for the list? Add a comment below.

Becoming a Media Mentor: A Guide for Working with Families (2016) by Claudia Haines, Cen Campbell and ALSC

Born Reading: Bringing up Bookworms in a Digital Age- From Picture Books to eBooks and Everything in Between (2014) by Jason Boog 

Buckleitner’s Guide to Using Tablets with Young Children (2016) by Warren Buckleitner

Children, Adolescents, and the Media (2013) American Academy of Pediatrics Policy Statement- update due October, 201

Designing for Diverse Families (2015) by the Joan Ganz Cooney Center

Diversity Programming for Digital Youth: Promoting Cultural Competence in the Children’s Library (2014) by Jamie Campbell Naidoo

Early Connections: A Parent Education Toolkit for Early Childhood Providers

Family Engagement in the Digital Age (2016) edited by Chip Donohue

Family Time with Apps: A Guide to Using Apps with Your Kids (2014) Joan Ganz Cooney Center (This iBook can be downloaded through the iTunes store or as a non-interactive PDF from the link above.)

Giving Our Children A Fighting Chance: Poverty, Literacy and the Development of Information Capital (2012) by Susan B. Neuman and Donna C. Celano

Growing Up Digital Research Symposium Proceedings (2015) sponsored by American Academy of Pediatrics

Hour of Code by Code.org

Media Mentorship for Libraries Serving Youth (2015) by Cen Campbell, Claudia Haines, Amy Koester, and Dorothy Stoltz

Opportunity for All? Technology and Learning in Lower-Income Families by Victoria Rideout and Vikki Katz for Joan Ganz Cooney Center

Screen Sense: Setting the Record Straight by Zero to Three

Screen Time: How Electronic Media—From Baby Videos to Educational Software—Affects Your Young Child (2012) by Lisa Guernsey

Selective Examples of Effective Classroom Practice Involving Technology Tools and Interactive Media National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) and the Fred Rogers Center for Early Learning and Children’s Media at Saint Vincent College

STEP into Storytime: Using StoryTime Effective Practice to Strengthen the Development of Newborns to Five-Year-Olds (2014) by Saroj Ghoting

Tap, Click, Read (2015) by Lisa Guernsey and Michael Levine (also: tapclickread.org)

Technology and Digital Media in the Early Years: Tools for Teaching and Learning (2014) edited by Chip Donohue

Technology and Interactive Media as Tools in Early Childhood Programs Serving Children from Birth to Age 8 (2012) National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) and the Fred Rogers Center for Early Learning and Children’s Media at Saint Vincent College

The Common Sense Census: Media Use by Tweens and Teens by Common Sense Media

The New Coviewing: Designing for Learning through Joint Media Engagement by Joan Ganz Cooney Center and the LIFE Center

Young Children, New Media, and Libraries: A Guide for Incorporating New Media into Library Collections, Services, and Programs for Families and Children Ages 0-5 edited by Amy Koester (LittleeLit)

Young Children and New Media in Libraries: Preliminary Survey Results Make Case for More Research (American Libraries Magazine, 2015)

Zero to Eight: Children’s Media Use In America Common Sense Media

*from Media Mentorship for Libraries Serving Youth by Cen Campbell, Claudia Haines, Amy Koester, and Dorothy Stoltz

*list updated 7/31/16