Starting the School Year Off Right

At this point of the year, all of us are in the midst of planning how to make our summer programs come alive to help avoid the summer slide and along comes someone who wants to talk about getting ready for the next school year. Yikes!

No, your eyes aren’t deceiving you (and please don’t shoot this messenger!). I’d like to suggest that fall is where we should be looking already. In just a few short months there will be toddlers taking on preschool, preschoolers making their way to kindergarten, grade-schoolers flying up to their next level or even on to middle school or junior high. It would be easy for them to get lost in the September shuffle. What can we do to help?

At my branch, we’ve come up with a few super simple and effective ways to stay connected and let our families and school partners know we care. Here’s our checklist for September Success:

  • Call your schools now to find out when teacher orientations are. Get on their agenda, even if it’s only for 10-15 minutes to introduce yourself.
  • Develop a print packet or PowerPoint to share information with your family and school partners. Include booklists, database demonstrations, tours, program schedules, tutoring sources, library card sign-ups, and booktalks. Get this information to family-focused community based organizations, as well.
  • Find out what other community partners have to offer. Check in with the Y, Boys and Girls Club, faith-based groups, the Parks Department. Compile a list to have handy when parents and caregivers ask what’s happening in town.
  • Create a friendly afterschool space for studying and hanging out (and get all staff on board as library ambassadors by sharing with them the importance of our place in the literacy “food chain.”)
  • Create a spreadsheet with your school contacts. Make sure it has the following information: name of school, school librarian (if any) and principal, contact phone numbers and emails, mailing addresses, grade spans, class sizes (great when you need to have things sent home with students), languages spoken and any other notable details.
  • Send a welcome letter to the directors & principals at the start of the school year, including special services that you can provide. Be sure to let them know any special library rules or policy updates that they can share with their staff. Invite them to come for a library tour.
  • Create (or update) a space on your library’s website with information and pictures of your youth services staff. Add personal touches such as favorite books or hobbies. Also, what they like to be called (Miss Lulu, Mr. T, Ms. Smith, or just plain Jane).
  • Find out when each school’s Parent/Teacher organization meets and get on their agenda and mailing list.
  • Get a copy of the school schedule and red-circle early release dates and breaks on your staff planning calendar. Schedule extra staffing and special activities (free family films, gaming tables, LEGO club, make-n-takes, story times) to support students who aren’t otherwise occupied.

As you can see, with a bit of forethought and organization, the coming school year need not be that stressful thing that rears its ugly head at you late in August. You’ll simply slide from summer to September!

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Beth (Rosania) Stalford, a member of the School Age Programs & Services Committee, is the Library Services Supervisor—Children & Teens at King County Library System in Bellevue, WA.

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One Response to Starting the School Year Off Right

  1. Renee Perron says:

    Thanks for this great To Do list. Creating a better relationship between my public library and the schools is something I’d like to work on this year. Your list puts me in the right direction!

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