Serving Parents and Toddlers through Early Literacy Boxes

As a new parent, I was spending hours looking for new toys for my baby and searching books and other activities to pair with each toy.  I quickly realized that the toys I wanted were costly considering how quickly babies and toddlers grow. The toys and books that parents buy in one season may be completely irrelevant to their youngsters a month or two later. We want our children to benefit from these types of toys but it is just not economical for most families, mine included, to purchase all of them. As a librarian, I know that linking literacy and play is effective in building a lifelong love of learning. As a mom, I realized that not all parents have access to the necessary resources.  I thought this would be a perfect opportunity for the library to provide parents with more tools to encourage literacy and play.

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My proposal, which consisted of creating “Literacy Boxes” including one toy, one book, and one activity sheet for parents, was funded by our Library Foundation to the amount of $3000.  Our Heads of Youth Services worked together to select appropriate toys and books for 50 boxes and then created activity sheets for parents to help them use the literacy box contents with their child.  After a few months we quickly realized that these kits were a hit among our patrons and used some of our remaining budget to order the contents for 30 more kits, which we are currently in the process of assembling.

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While we knew that parents and children would love these kits, we also tried to keep in mind the work that maintaining them would put on other departments, mainly Circulation.  We tried to be cognizant of the number of pieces in each box, knowing that Circulation would have to count and clean those pieces every time they were returned.  We also chose not to select toys that required a battery or that were made from cloth.  This makes upkeep and cleaning a bit easier.  Kits are stored and checked out in clear plastic Sterlite containers.  These are also easy to clean and help protect the toys.

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                                                                                                 Photos taken by blogger

Each box’s book and toy pairs together either by theme or skill, and the activity card gives ideas on how to share the book with your child, linking the book and toy together, and different ways to enjoy the toy.  There are boxes appropriate for babies, toddlers, and preschoolers.  For a list of all of our boxes, visit our catalog at www.geaugalibrary.net and do a subject search for “literacy box.”

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Kara Fennell Walker works as the Head of Youth Services at the Middlefield Library in Middlefield, Ohio. She is writing for the ALSC Early Childhood Programs and Services Committee. If you would like to learn more about her early literacy boxes, you can email her at kara.walker@geaugalibrary.info.

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