This semester we had a guest speaker who came to my teen services class to talking about gaming and advocacy. To me, none of the presentation was entirely new, but was interesting to hear confirmation of some of the things I’d already been doing as part of my ready to read activities. Advocacy is a lot of things to a lot of people, and I was thinking about it this morning when I was making copies at the copy machine we share with HR. A new employee from HR was waiting for her prints to come out and I started talking to her about the ready-to-read program, how the materials I was preparing fit in, and all of the different groups we were trying to reach out to. While she is a library employee, and doesn’t have children, sharing my enthusiasm for the program and what we are doing is a large part of advocacy.
Yesterday, I was coming back from the coffee shop and encountered a young child coming from story time with his mother and younger sister. I encouraged them both to return to participate in the program the next day. The next day when they came they shared their enthusiasm with another family that came in that had never heard of the program before. They commented that they’d never had so much attention at the library before.
That attention is another part of advocacy. I love the programs that I design and hold, but they aren’t always mobbed by children right away. For one thing, many parents who are not regulars think that the table and activities are for special groups, they need to be specially invited and encouraged to participate. Some kids are scared of strangers or not in the mood, so part of my advocacy is helping parents understand the literacy skill behind the activity. That way, even if the child does not have the patience or confidence or skill to work on the activity, the parent can incorporate the skill into their interaction with the children at home.
Sometimes parents will take books with them to work on the concept at home, while other times we have an activity they can work on at home. Either way, advocacy is in communicating to parents and caregivers the importance of these literacy activities. Once parents become excited about the program, then they join in with my efforts to advocate continuing these programs.
I frequently wish I could expand my efforts at advocacy for my program, as I think many of my activities and others like them, could be incorporated into the branches with ease. So when I talk to co-workers at other locations and even in other systems, I like to tell them about my programs, and I suppose this blog even helps!