Magazine article Texas Library Journal

Growing like a Read: Tailoring an Early Literacy Program for Your Community

Magazine article Texas Library Journal

Growing like a Read: Tailoring an Early Literacy Program for Your Community

Article excerpt

Note: The article is an edited and updated version of a piece published in (and printed here with the author's permission) Programming Librarian, July 2012.

Childrens librarians work to model strong reading practices, provide information and tips for parents, and recommend books and activities that benefit children. At the end of the day, however, librarians are only one outside - albeit important - player in a child's education. Parents and caregivers are, of course, at the center of a child's development and have the most concentrated time to work with their kids on the pre-reading skills that pave the way for brain development. Given this foundation, children's librarians at the Children's Center of the Pioneer Library System (PLS) in Oklahoma developed a program to support parents in their role as their children's first teachers.

Develop Materials with the User in Mind: Parents and Caregivers

Baby, toddler, and preschool storytimes provide the perfect opportunity to reach parents and caregivers, as well as children themselves, and demonstrate and market the best materials and methods to develop language and early literacy skills. It has to be up to the parents and caregivers of young children who are with them hour after hour to instill the ritual and repetition necessary for early brain development. Early literacy skills are all about brain development, not learning how to read.

Staff of the Children's Center at PLS, a public library system with 11 branches that serve a diverse suburban and rural population in Cleveland, McClain, and Pottawatomie counties in central Oklahoma, realized that encouraging parents and caregivers to read aloud to their children was not sufficient. Families, whether because they lived far from the library or because they were constantly on the go, needed to have a book of their own and a series of simple, purposeful activities appropriate for their children's developmental levels that promoted oneto-one language interaction between the adult and the child.

Use Best Practices

To provide parents with the tools needed to create a language-rich environment and extend learning beyond the library walls, PLS staff researched the literature, attended national trainings, assembled best practices, and developed Growing Like a Read (GLAR). Now in its fifth year, the program is still growing and reaching new families. Branch staff is committed to promoting GLAR to parents in the library and to daycare providers on outreach visits, while Children's Center staff and GLAR developers Jenny Stenis and Valerie Kimble focus on outreach to nonlibrary users.

In research and practice, Growing Like a Read is based on the American Library Association's Every Child Ready to Read @ your library (ECRR). ECRR laid out the groundwork for promoting prereading skills in the public library. Stenis and Kimble developed GLAR, which incorporates all the principles of ECRR and provides materials for parents and caregivers to use when working with their children on a one-to-one basis.

Involve Expert Community Partners in Program Development

In developing the GLAR program, staff realized they needed expert help to ensure valid and appropriate activities for the children, a program design that would appeal to a grantor, and assistance with incentives from local communities. They turned to community partners, including child development specialists, child psychologists, children's advocates, educators, even bankers, who were essential to every phase of the project, from planning through marketing and outreach.

GLAR materials were developed inhouse by Stenis, Kimble, and other PLS staff, with input from early childhood professionals in the community. PLS children's librarians were polled for their favorite, public domain nursery rhymes and songs, which were compiled by Kimble and illustrated by Gary Kramer, PLS public information director. Stenis prepared activity logs for every six-month period from birth to age four with input from Vona K. …

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