Does your library offer one-on-one early literacy outreach to special populations?
Skokie Public Library aspires to creatively reach the youngest members of our diverse community. We provide storytime outreach to preschools and early childhood centers, but these visits are limited in scope and are generally performed for larger groups of children. Realizing that group dynamics limit the effectiveness of dialogic reading, we set out to create a space for regular, one-on-one, interactive reading in a child care environment.
How did we achieve this goal while being mindful of staff capacity?
We partnered with a like-minded and respected early childhood center to send trained volunteers to reach each child. The volunteers cultivate one-on-one relationships through their weekly visits where they read, rock, sing and play with the children. By sharing these experiences the children bond with the volunteers and develop a love of language. We initially targeted children ages 0-3, being mindful that a language gap in the youngest members of our community could influence their future success in school.
What are the results?
By galvanizing the specially screened and selected volunteers in the community, training them in “Every Child Ready To Read (ECRR),” and sending them into the classrooms on a weekly basis, we are able to create a tailored, language-rich learning environment that allows for the give-and-take that occurs during the process of dialogic reading. Children have time to respond to the text and engage with the volunteers on their own terms and at their own speed. Teachers report an increase in excitement about books among the children, and volunteers note the increased enjoyment of and participation in language-based activities. And the volunteers get great joy and satisfaction knowing they are making a difference in the lives of children. While volunteers were only asked to commit to a three month session, many have been with us almost nine months and going strong. We have even expanded to include ages 3-5, tailoring our materials to the needs of the children.
Our long-term goals include: holding ECRR parent-child and teacher workshops and expanding to other early childhood sites in the community. We are currently working on an outcome measurement tool to monitor progress and adjust the program as needed to better meet our overall goals and the needs of the community.
Please let us know if you are initiating similar programs in your communities and what challenges and successes you have encountered.