In an earlier post, I anticipated happily the arrival of the new version of Every Child Ready to Read. And sure enough, the new approach to presenting early literacy parent workshops, with its emphasis on the 5 activities parents can do with their children from birth to get them ready to read, is a vast improvement.
We just got the packet of materials in late June, and I spent July training small groups of children’s librarians at our 72 branches and Central Library on the new product, with two more groups to go in August. Though we haven’t yet had the opportunity to give the new workshop to parents, our children’s librarians are enthusiastic about the attractive, interactive, and flexible new presentation.
Here’s what we like:
- The slides are attractive, with photos representing many different ethnicities
- There are very few words on each slide, and very little jargon
- The talking points (no script – hurray!) allow the presenter to vary the length of the presentation, to spend more time on some slides and less on others, and in general to adapt the presentation to the needs of the particular audience
- There are 3 distinct segments to the presentation – info on the 2 categories of skills needed to learn to read; the 5 activities that strengthen these skills; and how the library can help parents reinforce the skills
- There are plenty of opportunities to talk about books and to interact with parents or ask them to participate
- The emphasis on the 5 activities is empowering – most parents do talk, read, write, sing, and play with their kids, and have lots of examples to give
- The accompanying handouts for parents are great (though a bit wordy)
- The workshop is so simple and straightforward that librarians feel ready and eager to take it out into the community to parents
Here are some problems:
- Though I preordered back in April, I didn’t receive the packet of stuff until very late July! If I hadn’t gotten my hands on the packet at ALA in June, I wouldn’t have been able to start training my staff in July. So now I have 2 packets…
- The PowerPoint slide presentations are great, and there are several to choose from, including one just for training staff. But – our branch librarians, who are mandated to go out into the community and give these presentations to parents who may not be library users, don’t have laptops/tablets and portable projectors at their disposal! And it’s the rare Head Start or daycare center that has this kind of equipment. So I’m getting laminated 11” x 17” versions of each slide made for each branch, with the talking points on the back, so that librarians will still be able to use these great visual aids if they want. Mind you, the entire workshop can be done with no slides at all – but the slides are helpful.
- The ECRR products are only available in English! This is a major problem for us and for most library systems, I’m betting. I’ve heard that a Spanish version is coming, but we’ve had to go ahead and get the handouts and so on translated in-house.
- The ECRR website has no information for parents; it’s basically just a place to get background information and to order the (not inexpensive) packet. It would be great to have a pdf of the parent brochure and handouts on the website, at a minimum
- Folks aren’t super-crazy about the poster
But overall, we’re thrilled. We’re shifting our promotion of these workshops into high gear and hope to spread awareness among the many early childcare schools and organizations in the City of Los Angeles. An early childhood organization called First 5 LA put an article about our workshops into their e-newsletter on Monday, and I’ve already gotten calls and emails from several preschools. Yes!
Also, we are conducting an evaluation of our parent workshops, focusing on a few branches and following parents over the course of several months and two workshops; we hope to find that parents have gained knowledge and changed behavior as a result of the workshops, and that they have increased their library usage.
I can’t wait to see if parents react to the new Every Child Ready to Read workshops as positively as our children’s librarians have. Stay tuned!