Early Literacy

Spreading the Word about Early Literacy

How do we reach those who might not yet know about the importance of early literacy?  Attendees at storytimes tend to be the motivated ones, but Deschutes Public Library in central Oregon wanted to make sure we were also offering support to those who might not feel comfortable reading aloud to a baby or making up rhymes with a toddler.  Several years ago we began a campaign called “Read, Rhyme, Romp: The Three R’s to Grow a Reader.”  Donations from the Friends and the Foundation, as well as grants and library funds, have allowed us to continue getting the word out about the skills and activities needed to grow a reader.  Here are the parts of our many-faceted marketing campaign:

Todd Parr. 
Todd Parr makes you feel good!  He graciously agreed to let us contract with him to use his art for all of our promotional materials.

Early Literacy Calendars. 
Our fun-filled calendars offer rhymes, songs, recommended books, early literacy activities, and research, surrounded by gorgeous illustrations from children’s books.  Each month is focused around one of the 5 activities recommended by Every Child  Ready to Read @ Your Library–read, talk, play, sing and write.  Calendars (and the rhyme booklets below) are distributed through hospitals, pediatric offices, social service organizations, and preschools in our 5 communities.

CalendarPhoto Rhymes On the Go.  This small booklet of playful English or Spanish rhymes is intended to stick in the diaper bag, car or purse, so when parent and child are standing in line, or waiting at an office, they have a quick and easy resource for ways to play with words.

Early Literacy Videos.  Being silly with rhymes and songs comes easy to most of us, but others might need encouragement.  We’ve posted 40 videos on our early literacy web page of librarians demonstrating some of our favorites.

Workshops.  Parenting classes, civic groups, preschool teachers– wherever and whenever, I speak to groups interested in knowing more.  I might get 10 minutes or 90, there might be children or not, I might have 3 attendees or 30.  The keywords are flexibility and fun!

Read, Rhyme and Romp book.  I’m such a geek about early literacy I had to write a book.  It features an abundance of recommended activities for parents, preschool teachers and librarians, plus hundreds of recommended titles and related research.

For those who come into our buildings we make sure they are surrounded by opportunities to interact with their child:

Early Learning Space.  We have 6 libraries that range from urban to rural.  Beginning with the library in Redmond, and hopefully extending to 3 more next fiscal year, we are creating spaces in each children’s room that feature opportunities for child and care provider to talk, imagine, play, and learn.   A rhyming rug, doll house, writing pads, alphabet bags, puzzles, a puppet stage, magnet boards with rhymes, and more enhance the children’s area.  The Imagination Station is sponsored by a local business for 6 months, and their donation allows us to buy related educational toys so the children can be creative while they learn.

Mango the Monkey.  Banners, posters and stand-up monkeys now adorn every children’s room, spreading the word about what care providers should be doing to instill a love of reading.  Mango is our mascot because he’s lively, clever and curious, just like young readers!


Our guest blogger today is Heather McNeil.  Heather is the Youth Services Manager at the Deschutes Public Library and a Specialized Master Trainer in Oregon on Every Child Ready to Read. You’re welcome ask questions about this program in the comments below or email her directly at heatherm@dpls.lib.or.us.

Please note that as a guest post, the views expressed here do not represent the official position of ALA or ALSC.

If you’d like to write a guest post for the ALSC Blog, please contact Mary Voors, ALSC Blog manager, at alscblog@gmail.com.


  1. Amy Chase

    Hi, I’d like to find out how we can get a copy or copies of “Rhymes on the Go” booklet.

  2. Heather McNeil

    Hello, Amy. If you’ll email me your address I will mail you a copy of the English and Spanish rhyme booklets. heatherm@deschuteslibrary.org

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