Literacyland

After storytimes, collection development, cataloging, working at the front desk, and other tasks, I try to head out and do as much outreach as I can. Since I work part-time, that mostly means bi-monthly visits to a local preschool, Spring visits to local schools before the summer program, and the three month outreach program I did last Winter.

Last weekend, I did a different kind of outreach. I was invited to be part of what I like to call Early Literacy Lane at our community’s popular Rotary Health Fair. The annual event at the high school brings in lots of families and this year, exhibitors also included organizations talking about literacy and kids.

For the better part of Saturday, I talked to families about early literacy skills and library programs in between playing with LEGOs, visiting with my little storytime friends who stopped by to play, and meeting spouses and siblings who I don’t see at storytime during the week. The fair was visited by almost 1,200 people and it was a great opportunity to connect with attendees and other exhibitors.

Literacyland- a Recipe for Early Literacy Success!20131107-215156.jpg

I wanted to design an interactive exhibit that was fun, included much more than books, and could be recreated at future events. My small exhibit featured early literacy mini-stations marked by signs featuring each of the early literacy skills from Every Child Ready to Read. The signs also included an easy to understand definition of each skill. The mini-stations provided tangible activity suggestions to strengthen the six skills.

I got lots of questions about early literacy, storytimes, digital media for kids, and our library’s other services. Literacyland gave me a chance to connect with families beyond the library and explain the elements of storytime and why we include them, something that sometimes gets lost amongst the stories, songs, and activities we do.

Literacyland Ingredients:

  • Chicka Chicka Boom Boom-inspired tree (and the book by Bill Martin, John Archambault, and Lois Ehlert)
  • Magnetic letters and numbers (look for letters, like Melissa & Doug’s,  that have magnetic material completely covering the back)
  • 2 containers of large LEGOs
  • Rhyme Cube
  • variety of books (board books and picture books) and kits
  • Bean bag from the library
  • portable CD player and headphones for mini listening station
  • Card table with covering
  • Clipboard with paper and pens
  • Storytime brochures
  • How-to-get-a-library-card flyers
  • Three Little Pigs story basket
  • Feltboard and felt pieces
  • Mini-station signs (laminated early literacy skill signs attached to dowels planted in paint containers full of beach sand)
  • Nametag
  • Water bottle

The exhibit pieces were relatively easy to pull together since most of it came from the children’s room at the library. Deciding what to bring, not knowing the size of my space before the Friday night set up, was the trickiest part. The highlight of the exhibit was either the LEGOs, which attracted passersby, or the tree, which amazed visitors of all ages.

My favorite piece was the tree! After reading a post on the ALSC blog about using magnetic paint at the library, I’ve had some ready and waiting at home. I’ve been trying to figure out how I could use the magical paint in our library. LIteracyland finally gave me the perfect opportunity! A Chicka Chicka Boom Boom-inspired tree seemed perfect.

I had a friend cut the 5’h x 4’w tree shape out of finished plywood (one side finished only is fine). My husband built the stable frame to stand it up right and painted it with metallic paint on the trunk and green on the fronds. It was well worth the effort to make the tree, which we will be able to reuse at the library or at future outreach visits. Kids of all ages played with the letters; spelling their name, figuring out what was magnetic, and organizing the letters and numbers!

What kind of outreach do you do beyond school visits and traveling storytimes?

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