The community center is located in an urban neighborhood with families from a broad spectrum of experiences and opportunities. Refugee families are often resettled here and the programming provided by the community center helps to smooth their transition to new lives. As families walk into the room and get settled on the floor, some of the little ones are already moving and shaking with the music, while others cuddle shyly into the arms their grownups. As the music winds down, the anticipation builds and all eyes turn to the front of the room. What time is it? It’s time for Storytime with Miss Anna!
According to ALA’s History of Preschool Storytimes, story hours offered within the walls of public libraries began over 120 years ago. More recently, offering storytimes outside of our libraries and within underserved areas of our communities has become an important priority for many libraries. So how can you get started?
First, identify potential partners. Is there a local community center working with populations that typically don’t participate in library services? A non-profit providing services to an underserved community? Next, make the connection. I’ve found that a brief in-person visit can be more effective than e-mails or phone calls. Develop a brief “elevator speech” explaining the services and possibilities you have to offer. And finally, it’s okay to start small. Nurture the relationship you’ve developed and you may find one opportunity will lead to another.
Your hard work will be challenging but oh-so-rewarding! Offering early literacy programming within the community provides grown-ups and little ones with the critical information and skills needed to be ready to thrive in kindergarten and in life.