This week is my last week at my old job, but hopefully it wont be the last week of Ready to Read activities at the center. I have been working hard to get instructions and supplies together so that these activities can be pulled out and used after I am gone to work at my new job. The plan is to provide enough supplies so that each activity can be used at least once without any further preparation then looking at the instruction sheet and grabbing the box of glue sticks and the box of crayons along with the prepared supplies.
For some reason, I’d forgotten that it would be a shorter work week because of the holiday, but I’m still sure that I can pull it all together. Well at least I hope so! This week’s activity is pretty simple. We will be making collages on large letters. I have boxes with a huge assortment of different scraps of different types and colors of paper. That and glue sticks and scissors is all we need for a lot of fun! We made samples on Thursday and stuck them on the Fridge door in the break room–they looked nice and were fun to put together. Plus kids love to work on cutting paper and gluing, skills they get lots of practice in this activity, along with practicing some letters.
In two weeks, I will be starting a new job, which I am super excited and nervous about. It is an amazing position, with the potential to do a huge amount of good in the community, as well as giving me TONS of good experience. I will be coordinating the new center to assist students k-12 with their homework. The job is one that combines advocacy, programing, and hands on, one-on-one interaction with youth. Plus, it is the sort of position that responds to the needs of the community and the season, meaning that I will have a ton of freedom to design new programs and visit new locations to market the center to students and recruit potential volunteers.
Another advantage of this position, is that I will be full time working out of one location. This will make it so much easier to arrange my schedule and plan ahead. Even though I wont begin for a couple of weeks, I’m bursting with ideas for the upcoming Summer Reading Season and the build up to the new school year at the end. It will be adventure to get to know a new branch, new customers, and a new job!
For the next two weeks, I’ll be getting the R2R activities set up to continue after I go, and wrapping up all the other details of my two jobs. I’m sure that I will have lots to post as it gets closer to the time for me to start my new job.
So for the rest of this week, and all of next week, I will have a practicum student to supervise and assist. While she is under the direct supervision of our teen librarian, she is all mine for these two weeks to learn about the ready-to-read after-storytime program. In addition, she will be observing storytimes. This week she is shadowing me and assisting with the activity, and is developing an activity for next week.
Lots of the time on Tuesday was spent explaining the program, its purposes, and where things were. Armed with a stack of books, she has been brainstorming ideas to do after storytime. It is a fascinating experience to work with someone else on a project that is so near and dear to me. She has a lot of great ideas, and it isn’t my position to shoot down any ideas, rather to help her see how they will fit into the program. Since I developed it, and have a sort of rudimentary set of guidelines on what doesn’t work, I some times have to say “That is a great idea–how will we encourage children to complete the whole project in the time frame?” or “Will we have time to get that all ready for next week?” Perhaps I should just let her learn this on her own, but that seems kind of mean to allow her to embark on a project that will suck every waking moment of her time and still not complete it.
Anyway, she brainstormed a lot of good ideas–and the one she settled on will be a great deal of fun. It marks an enthusiasm for the program as well as an understanding of the ways that parents use the resource. In watching parents make sets of alphabet cards to take home, she thought it would be great to provide something else they could make that they could work with. Building off of an old childhood favorite Memory, she will cut out shapes and cards and allow children to make cards with one on each to play a matching game with another card.
Tomorrow, she will work on preparing materials and pulling together books for the display–and I may have to leave her in charge for the set up of the program.
This is a variation on an activity we did a month or so ago–that time it was using numbers, while this involves letters. Fortunately, I learned a lot while doing the previous activity, and have the forms mounted on foam already. I also have a lot of paper cut up for the activity.
Each square features the capital and lowercase letter and two items that begin with that letter. This provides vocabulary and letter awareness practice, as well as further developing motor skills. I hope since we have children returning to the center to participating in the activities they will learn how to do this activity and develop the motor skills required.
There are lots of great alphabet books to go with this activity, and it is such a simple take down and set up. Though I plan on covering the table to prevent children from scribbling everywhere.
This week I will have a practicum student observing the activities and planning her own, so I wanted something simple that she could help with. Not that she couldn’t figure out something complicated, but so she has time to work on her program for next week and figure out where everything is and how everything works. It is so hard to go into a new system and figure out where things are and how they do things there.
Over the past few months, the children’s department has been working to improve the reading readiness center to promote the ready to read program. This has taken three forms: increasing programing, adding new resources, and changing the physical facilities.
My reading readiness activities following storytimes are a major part of the changes that have taken place over the past months. Having a staff member around to illustrate and communicate the 6 R2R skills and demonstrate ways to enhance this in interactions with their children. In addition, the library has offered R2R training for all staff and at many locations for parents and childcare providers. This week a practicum student from the local Library Science School will be observing and planning an after-storytime activity like mine for next week. I’m hoping that this experience will encourage her to incorporate these types of pre-literacy activities into her library.
Earlier this spring, the R2R center received a whole bunch of new toys to encourage narrative skills, vocabulary, and a whole bunch of other pre-reading skills. My favorite is the kitchen/market area and the toy food. The food is incredibly realistic, and has an enormous variety of foods. This allows children to learn the names of new foods and see what goes together. When I have the time, I’ll bring my bunny puppet and encourage the children to find out what food a bunny would eat. We’d discuss if bunnies ate spaghetti or bagels or cauliflower.
Just last week, we took the first steps towards improving the physical facilities–taking down the shelving units and installing new counter tops. We will be doing some more painting and installing some new shelves, and hopefully some new activities to foster reading readiness.
Lots of learning and changing going on!
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!
The first week of April we started our work on numbers and emphasized sequencing along with numeral/quantity relationships. In order to do this, and have fun, we made number chains of links starting with one 1, then two 2s, and so on, with a strip for their names. I printed these numbers on a standard 11inch printer page then copied them onto colorful printer paper, then along with a volunteer, I cut them into strips and gathered them with paper clips into groups of 11 strips.
Each participant got a group of strips, which we showed them how to connect using a glue stick. While I wanted them to connect in the correct order, many of the children were just happy to connect them. And as I always say–there is no wrong way–we learn at our own speed, and work on our own level–the only rule is to have fun (oh, and don’t eat the glue or put it in anyone’s hair) Some parents and caregivers created their own chains which they used to practice numbers with their children.
Sequencing is an important pre-literacy skill–and practicing putting things in order, from number strips, letter strips, or flashcards can be a fun and easy way to develop this skill. We had over a hundred participants, both children and caregivers.
Along with this activity, we displayed books featuring numbers and counting, particularly counting to 10. There are a number of very popular books re-telling the classic round story about 10 in a bed. Which is perfect for toddlers, because it is repetitive, and allows for participation. It also teaches cause and effect. While children worked on their crafts, I discussed with parents the advantages of reading this type of book and suggested several titles they might use.
Since these activities attract children from 17mo to 7 yrs old, from a wide variety of backgrounds, who are at various stages of reading readiness, parents have extremely varied needs. Some parents think that their children are too young for counting, too young for books, and lack the attention span for reading. So during the activities I enjoy demonstrating how small children can enjoy a book, and how interactive many of our board books are. Because these activities are joint caregiver and child, I have a lot of opportunities to interact with parents and offer tips and suggestions on fostering literacy skills. But since there are so many parents and children I can’t always offer extended attention, so I dedicated a shelf of my display cart to parenting and literacy books filled with ideas for fun ways to make literacy learning a part of every day.
Spring break and the last week of March featured fun with shapes. This activity focused on color and shape recognition, as well as working on motor skills with cutting and using glue sticks. Plus it was FUN for kids as young as 2 and as old as 10!
An easy activity, we printed a square, a circle, a triangle, and a rectangle on colored copy paper. Some of these shapes we cut out so the smallest kids could participate, others we allowed children to cut out. Then we brought out 11 x 16 pieces of white copy paper. Children with the help of caregivers were able to cut out shapes and paste them to their pages in whatever pattern and order they wished. They could choose whatever colors they wanted and as many shapes and colors as they had patience to cut and paste.
To support this activity, we displayed some fun shape books, as well as books on colors. And along with helping children with cutting and figuring out how to paste, I and a teen volunteer asked children to discuss their creations. Several older children from a daycare facility asked to have their creations displayed–which we did!
Some of our fun books: Ship Shapes
So Many Circles, So Many Squares
My early literacy activities are focused on the six ready to read skills developed by the American Library Association, though every skill is not emphasized every day. Each week we focus on one different theme, and bring in books that are associated with that topic. Even when the theme is shapes or numbers, the connection with early literacy is maintained through the usage of books and other skills.
There are six skills that we foster in different ways, in storytimes, in activities, and in our ready-to-read center, which is full of activities that help children develop these skills in play:
- Vocabulary: Exposing children to new words, synonyms, and a variety of experiences prepares them to be readers, and also makes them ready for school.
- Print Awareness: Helping children understand the connection between words and the actual real item, can also be seen in connecting the numeral with the quantitative amount.
- Narrative Skills: Encourages children to interact with text, tell the story, guess what will happen next, helps them to understand how a story works and how the world works. Cause and effect
- Print Motivation: Sharing the love of reading, putting fun in the fundamentals of learning, and illustrating how enjoyable reading and learning can be.
- Phonological Awareness: Exposes children to the way words work, and the sounds they make, through rhyme, rhythm, and song.
- Letter Knowledge: Knowing ABCs, and how they relate to sounds and each other–what order do they come in?
Every week following storytime, we hold an activity to foster these skills, along with displays of books which parents and caregivers are encouraged to take home to continue the fun and learning. These activities are for learning, but more then that they are for FUN, and children are allowed to come and go as their attention span fluctuates. Some children would rather play on the computer or color independently–and why not! For some activities, parents and caregivers can take materials home with them to complete when the children have more energy or more attention.
Much of my efforts go in educating parents and caregivers who may not be aware that their child is old enough to be developing these skills, or they may not be aware of the benefit in some of the activities they are already doing. Parents and caregivers frequently tell me that their child is not old enough for books, crayons, counting, practicing their letters, or working on the craft. The message I have to share is that children can work on developing these skills at their own pace, but are never too young to start getting ready to read!