As a children’s librarian I love so many aspects of my work, but I find no part of it more gratifying than coordinating our Parenting Speaker Series. These 90-minute workshops on childrearing and life as a parent are taught by child development specialists and other professionals. My library has offered these free programs monthly during the school year for the last 8 years, which typically draw an audience of 75-100 adults.
Fred Rogers, creator of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood, believed that “anything mentionable is manageable.” This belief has been a guiding principle behind our parenting programs. We know how challenging parenting can be, and we get consistent feedback that attending these workshops increases the participants’ confidence and skill as parents. It is also a marvelous opportunity for parents in the community to connect with one another, share ideas and perspectives, and support each other through a variety of parenting issues. And the library benefits as well. Regularly offering parent education programs helps reinforce the library’s role as a community hub and an institution that actively supports lifelong learning and the entire family’s well being.
What Topics? We look for topics that will be meaningful and helpful to many parents. Subjects we’ve covered include Discipline and Young Children, Multiple Intelligences, Managing Parental Anger, Raising Boys/Raising Girls, Sibling Rivalry, Raising a Multilingual Child, Co-Parenting after Divorce and Mindful Parenting. While some of our topics have been just plain fun, such as cultivating your unique fashion sense with Be a Mom with Style, others have been highly practical, including Potty Training with the author of the excellent 13 Myths of Potty Training. But thanks to our gifted speakers, all of our workshops are invariably filled with humor, insight and an opportunity for attendees to better understand their children and encourage one another as parents. Presenters make plenty of time for discussion and Q & A.
We look for subjects that are hot locally and nationally, and strive to maintain a breadth of offerings so that parents with a variety of concerns will find programs of interest. And, although we call these “parenting” workshops, they are attended by many interested adults, including teachers, caregivers and grandparents. For these adults-only programs a regular weeknight from 7:00-8:30 p.m. works well for us as a time slot.
Parent/Child Workshops, Too: We’ve also presented many delightful parent/child workshops that strengthen family bonds, including Baby Sign Language, Family Yoga (with separate classes for parents with babies, toddlers, preschoolers, and children 5-12), Peaceful Touch and Thinking Big, Learning Big (hands-on science, math, literacy and language activities for young children and their parents), based on the superb book of the same name and taught by the authors. And we plan to offer our first Family Zumba class soon! We usually conduct these programs on Saturday afternoons.
Choosing Presenters: We find engaging presenters with outstanding credentials through such agencies as our local family resource center. Parents offer suggestions and we recruit from our community and professional network, as well. We cultivate relationships with the best speakers and ask several back often. Parents have come to value the advice of these educators highly, which greatly contributes to the success of our series. I stay in the room throughout the program, which helps me evaluate the presentation, get a sense of the concerns and interests of the community, and introduce and assist the speaker in any number of ways. I’m also able to welcome everyone and thank them for attending.
Funding, Publicity & Sign Ups: Our workshops are sponsored by our incredible Friends. We publicize our programs in the library through flyers on bulletin boards and on a large digital sign in our lobby, on our website, through an email list, our Facebook page, and our local print and online newspaper. Those interested can opt to be notified about upcoming programs through our website’s calendar, and register for workshops through this application. And, our calendar and event software automatically sends out reminders about programs an individual has signed up for.
Developing & Promoting the Collection: Speakers give us their handouts, which often include a bibliography, in advance of the program. We order these materials ahead of time whenever possible, thereby enhancing our collection. We display resources on the topic in our program room during the event so parents can easily check out materials after the program and continue exploring the subject. The handouts, are also available on our website.
By consistently offering workshops on such important topics as Keeping Your Relationship Strong While Parenting and Understanding Child Anger we help make every aspect of parenting “mentionable and manageable.” These meaningful experiences strengthen families, and reinforce the library as the vibrant, and resourceful, heart of the community.
Our guest blogger today is Sharon McClintock. Sharon is a Children’s Librarian at the City of Mountain View Public Library in Mountain View, CA. Sharon can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
If you’d like to write a guest post for the ALSC Blog, please contact Mary Voors, ALSC Blog manager, at email@example.com.