Saturday, June 27, 2015

Every Hero Has a Story: Who is your hero?

Ever since I took an early childhood related webinar through MLA about two months ago, I've been thinking about how to provide literacy building activities on every available library surface. I created our counting ramp, and am planning on adding a Lego board and a flannel board to the sides of our shelves. For summer reading I wanted to come up with a literacy building passive program that kids of all ages could enjoy.

I took advantage of our circulation desk and paper we had on hand to create a "Who is your hero?" board.

In addition to keeping kids busy while they wait to check out books, this board has many literacy benefits:
  • When writing on the board the youngest kids are developing their fine motor skills.
  • As the youngest children see words written down, they will develop the knowledge that print has meaning.
  • Kids will most likely sound out the names of their heroes as they write them, developing their phonemic awareness.
  • Developing readers will get valuable reading practice by reading the names of the heroes other children write on the board.
  • As parents see the board they will most likely talk about it with their children (one of the literacy practices in ECRR2).
  • Kids will probably explain why they chose their hero to parents or staff, therefore strengthening their narrative skills.
I'd love to hear any other great passive programming ideas you may have for the summer. As always you can comment here or reach me on Twitter (@MsKellyTweets).

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Early Literacy Messages in Action: The why, how, and where of incorporating early literacy tips in storytime

In my almost five years doing storytimes for all ages I've found one of the hardest aspects I've had to work on is how to incorporate early literacy tips. As someone without children it always seemed a little strange giving parents advice related to their children. Over time I've realized that this is one of the most important things we do in storytime and I've become more comfortable incorporating early literacy messages in my storytimes. Because of this experience when I saw some of my wonderful Twitter friends discussing doing a blog tour on the topic I was happy to add my two cents.

The why
The biggest reason for including early literacy messages in storytime is because as children's librarians, early literacy is one of our areas of expertise. Many parents may not know the things we do about early literacy, and it is part of our job to inform them. Other parents may already know a great deal but need a gentle reminder on a busy day. Still other parents could just use a reminder that the things they already do with their children are making a difference. Providing these messages helps support all these parents. It will help them encourage their children's development in the best way possible.

Knowing that storytime specifically supports early literacy will also help parents see the reasoning behind what we do and the value behind coming to storytime. Once they realize the value of storytime the more likely parents are to bring their children to storytime and become advocates for the library in the community.

The how
The "how" is where it gets tricky. It can be difficult to put our knowledge into words without sounding judgmental or preachy. Here are some things I've learned that make it a little easier.
  • Tie messages directly to what you are doing in storytime. I find this makes it feel more relevant and natural. It also gives your message a little more conversational tone.
  • Include messages at different points during storytime. As Jbrary points out, messages can be woven into your opening message, before or after activities and in one on one conversation with parents.
  • Word the message in a straightforward and simple way. I like the format of "When you do (insert activity) it is great for your child because (insert reason)". For instance "When you do bouncing rhymes, it is a great way for your baby to feel the rhythm of language." This not only gives concrete advice, it shows that we know parents are probably doing many of these things already.
  • Provide messages in several different formats. Some librarians provide handouts at storytime or display signs around the children's department. My favorite format is including these messages on my storytime blog.
  • Keep your messages varied as possible. I work in a small town, and have many regular kids who have attended storytime over long periods of time. This means I have to do my best to keep the messages I provide fresh and new.

Here are a few of my favorite tips to use:
  • "Song lyrics often include unfamiliar words, which makes singing a great way to boost your child's vocabulary" 
  • "Ask your baby simple questions as you read to them, even if they can't respond. The more you engage with your baby in this manner the more words they will learn to understand."
  • "Your baby will learn to pay attention to their name very early on. If you use their name right before a new word, your baby is more likely to learn the new word."
  • "Rhyming stories help your child identify the sounds of language. This skill becomes increasingly important as your child is learning how to read."

Where to find tips
These are just a few of my favorite places to find more examples.

For more great perspectives on this topic see the other posts in this blog tour. Jbrary has been kind enough to include them all in a a roundup post. You can also find discussion of this topic on Twitter under the hashtag #EarlyLitInAction.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

5 reasons why summer reading rocks

As you probably already know if you are reading this, summer is the busiest of year to be a youth services librarian in a public library. Running a summer reading program can be stressful but also amazingly fun and rewarding. While waiting for this year's summer reading program to start, I've definitely enjoyed the way my online youth service colleagues have written about this dichotomy. Angie sums up the chaos and fun of summer reading perfectly at her post on Letters to a Young Librarian. Sarah at Green Been Teen Queen gives another great account of what it is like to be a public librarian in the summer. They both show outsiders that summer reading is definitely not something to be run away from in fear!

I wanted to share a little bit of my own summer reading related positivity, so here we have my countdown of five reasons why summer reading rocks.

Reason 5:  You get to include fun and interesting outside performers
I don't typically use outside performers at my library very often, mainly due to budget reasons. However, in the summer all that changes, because I know attendance will be high. I typically get to include a least a few performers each summer. This summer we are having a magician, a pair of authors and a local artist visit my library. It adds a little variety for both the kids, and is fun for me to see as well.

Reason 4: It's the perfect opportunity to try new program ideas
More programs done each week equals more chance to those ideas filling up my Pinterest boards. The overarching themes of the Collaborative Summer Library Program also give me a chance to focus on topics I may not have previously thought of. For instance last years science themed summer reading program really strengthened my repertoire of STEAM program ideas.

Reason 3: You get to see kids you may not see during the school year.
There are some kids that can't make it into the library often during the school year, no matter how amazing your programs are. Summer is your time to see these kids and show them what the library is all about. The goal is for them to remember these positive experiences and become life long library fans.

Reason 2: The children's department gets to help the library build community good will
Summer reading is a great opportunity to show your community what the library has to offer. You have more families in to visit, more items being checked out and more programs to brag about. It is also a great time to partner with community organizations to fund prizes and programs. This works to showcase the positive of both organizations.

Reason 1: More kids + More reading = more fun.
This is really what it's all about. Summer reading brings together a children's librarian's two great loves: kids and books. There is really nothing better.

What are your favorite things about summer reading?