I attended two jam-packed sessions this Saturday morning at #alaac14.
The first session was Every Child Ready to Read 2–Does it Really Work? Once attendees found the session room location at the end of the South Hall maze, we were rewarded with some cheese. Cheese in the form of proven RESEARCH that shows that yes, what libraries do during early childhood storytimes makes a difference! Two researchers from the University of Washington’s Project VIEWS2, led by the late Eliza Dresang, gave an overview of the multi-year project investigating the work of librarians and the effect on children. Unsurprising to those in the library community, the verdict is in–we are doing great work! Suprising to me was the fact that this was the first formal research of its kind to show that “purposeful focus on early literacy principles makes a difference in programs and in children’s early literacy behaviors.” More insights and hard facts are in production from the Project VIEWS2 folks, including a white paper and website with practical tips and videos. Handouts from this session (and a previous presentation at PLA) are available on the conference websites.
The second morning session I attended was What No Tchotskes?: Creating an Experience Based Summer Program. If the reward of the first session was the proof in the pudding, the reward of this session was that PRIZES ARE NOT NECESSARY in summer reading programs. Three Illinois librarians presented ways in which they have completely re-thought their summer library programs. Oh wait, I mean summer learning challenges! The librarians emphasized experienced-based activities such as group art projects, cards with challenge suggestions to try at home or at the library, curiousity kits/stations, and a host of other ways to get kids doing/trying/thinking rather than counting/earning/winning. “Make the incentive coming to the library versus soming to the library for an incentive,” was my favorite quote of the session. Research shows that if we want kids to love reading, they need to develop intrinsic rather than extrinsic motivation. The Illinois trio were happily surprised there were no major complaints about the lack of plastic toy prizes or other accountability rewards. Instead, kids and their families were engaged and engrossed in the experience itself, rather than the structure, theme, or incentive. Lastly, the panel recommended taking small steps toward radical change by stating that it’s ok to fall, as long as you fall forward.
Bottom line: youth librarians are boss and we’ve got data and experience to prove it.
Tessa Michaelson Schmidt
Public Library Youth & Special Services Consultant