Teaching Early Literacy to Library Staff

"Play" and the objects that belong to that practice. [Image courtesy of the author.]

“Play” and the objects that staff decided belong to that practice. [Image courtesy of the author.]

My library recently gave me an incredible opportunity: thirty minutes of early literacy training with every staff member in our organization.

Everyone at my library is incredibly supportive of training and professional development, but not all 100 staff members are able to go to conferences or workshops regularly. Our administration staff and department heads worked together to create a “Year of Learning Opportunities” (YOLO) to give everyone the chance to learn some new skills. Six classes were chosen as mandatory sessions, including mine. Staff can sign up for additional non-mandatory classes including topics like Evanced, inter-library loan, local history, Arduinos, STEM, social media, and more.

But since my session was mandatory, I spent a lot of time thinking about what would be most beneficial for all staff to learn. Using Every Child Ready to Read’s five practices as a framework, I decided to focus on teaching everyone a few reasons why/how staff promote that practice in storytime and in the library.

To introduce “Sing”, I gave a few early literacy tips about why singing is important:

  • Singing slows down language which helps young children process what you’re saying
  • Each syllable/word gets a different note making it easier for children to hear individual sounds
  • Songs are repetitive (chorus) and children learn best through repetition

Next, I led the group in a discussion about how the library supports that skill; here’s what we came up with for “Read”:

  • Reading books in programming, like storytime (Kids&Teens)
  • Signs and postings around the library (Marketing)
  • Modeling reading (Kids&Teens, Adult, Circulation, and Technology Services)
  • Providing multiple formats to read on (Technology & Technical Services)
  • Having quotes on the wall (Building)
  • Hosting book-based programming like book and play discussion groups (Adult Services)
  • Providing books for check out (everyone — from Building staff who bring the boxes in to Technical Services who processes it to Admin who handles the bills to Kids&Teens/Adult recommending and finding the books to Circulation who get the books home

Last, I gave a few tips for staff to encourage that practice with young children; here’s what I said about “Talk”:

  • Greet all patrons, including young children who are often overlooked
  • Ask and answer questions — even if it’s an adult conversation, children are still hearing great vocabulary
  • Be patient and understand that tantrums/noises are a part of communication and can be the child’s way of trying to “talk”

The table full of early literacy tools, sorted by staff members. [Image courtesy of the author.]

The table full of early literacy tools, sorted by staff members. [Image courtesy of the author.]


And that was it for the formal presentation. Afterwards, I invited staff to touch and sort different kinds of early literacy tools according to the five practices to “test” their knowledge. I prefaced this “test” with the fact that each item could go in multiple practices, so there were no right or wrong answers. This was my favorite part — to hear the conversations between staff members made me feel like I had given them useful, practical knowledge.

What a gift for me!

If you’re interested in learning more, please feel free to email me [simplykatie.at.gmail.com] or to leave a comment on this post.

– Katie Salo
Early Literacy Librarian
Indian Prairie Public Library
http://storytimekatie.com

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2 Responses to Teaching Early Literacy to Library Staff

  1. Mary Voors says:

    I love the idea of offering this training to all staff. What a valuable opportunity to teach and learn!

  2. Julia Metcalf says:

    Wow! I am going to piggy back off your wonderful collection and do this with parents and caregivers after one of my story hours. Thank you!

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