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Changing Table Poster Project

ALSC & Bridge the Word Gap
Stay tuned into ALSC for more information on the Changing Table Poster Project and Bridging the Word Gap (image provided by ALSC)
In the time after the Early Childhood Programs and Services Committee met during Midwinter in Philadelphia, I had a short conversation with then-ALSC President, Starr LaTronica. She mentioned she had an idea in the middle of the night to use the space above changing tables for early learning posters with early literacy tips and fingerplays. Posters such as these could help parents and caregivers stay engaged with their children during the diaper change, and could increase the amount of words children hear.

It was a great idea, and during a subsequent conversation, the committee agreed to put together some ideas that could be used for the project. We decided we’d like to use the Every Child Ready to Read practices of Talking, Singing, Reading, Writing, and Playing.

We continued working, coming up with some of our favorite fingerplays and creating the early literacy tips. Then, shortly before ALA’s Annual Conference began in Las Vegas, the White House released a video message from President Obama about an initiative to bridge the word gap–the 30-million-word disparity children from low-income families experience in vocabulary, which impacts learning and school readiness.

During the committee’s meeting at Annual, Joanna Ison, from the ALSC Office, mentioned that the ALSC Board would be looking at ways to commit to joining the President’s initiative to eliminate the 30 million word gap, and thought the changing table poster project could be a way to do that. We agreed.

We are currently putting our ideas together for the posters. We are working with the ALSC Office to find an illustrator. Eventually, we are hoping we will have a set of ten posters, two for each of the five practices, with perhaps more to come. The best part is that the ALSC Board has committed to make them freely available as a download.

Our hope is once the posters are available, libraries can put them wherever changing tables exist in their communities, not only in the library, but in restaurants, museums, and government buildings. We hope that, rather than purchasing posters, communities can put together a collaboration to have the posters printed and distributed, and get parents and caregivers talking with their young children to eliminate the word gap.

We welcome thoughts and ideas about this project, and have become aware that some libraries are doing this in their own buildings. If you have a sample, please share it in the comments below!


Matt McLain is the 2014-2015 chair of the Early Childhood Programs and Services Committee. He is the Manager of the South Jordan Library, a branch of Salt Lake County Library Services. If you would like to contact him, email


  1. The Library Lady

    With all due respect to these well meaning, earnest folk, has anyone on this committee ever changed a baby’s diaper ? Or a toddler’s?

    While during diaper changes with my wiggly daughters I certainly often would sing a song or engage them in some other way, but my main focus was on getting them cleaned, changed and their clothing refastened, and in making sure they didn’t throw themselves off of the table. Often they were unhappy about being changed and fussing, and it was a struggle to get things done.
    And I won’t even bring up what it’s like to deal with a kid with a truly messy diaper in a public restroom. One reason I am grateful to have teenagers….

    In other words, the last thing I would have been doing was looking up to read a preachy poster over a table, especially in a public bathroom!

    If you want to help these parents and caregivers, put some bright engaging pictures that they can call their kids’ attention to, and perhaps THAT will engage them in interaction during a diaper change. Photos of babies and toddlers or familiar objects would probably have the most appeal.

    1. Amy Robillard

      To Library Lady, I respectfully disagree with your take on this idea. I too work in a library, in the children’s department. I too, have changed innumerable diapers. This is simply an opportunity for interaction. Some will choose it; some will not. That simple. I support this idea and have hung posters of my own choosing above the changing tables in the family restrooms in our department with the exact same thought in mind. We also have plans to include changing table rhymes and early literacy tips in an interchangable frame in the same space. Gosh, no harm done and not preachy.

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