ALA Annual 2016

Creating Spaces that Celebrate Every Child Ready to Read 2

How we serve the youngest of children and their families is, of course, a major priority for children’s librarians.  Besides our services, our spaces can also accommodate each of the major practices of Every Child Ready to Read 2 for our smallest of learners and their grownups.  At this year’s ALSC Charlemae Rollins President’s Program:  Libraries: the Space to Be, we will be discussing President Medlar’s vision of how to bring both big and small ways into our libraries  to enliven spaces to maximize learning outcomes.

Whether you have a grant for space redesign or are just adding a little nook space, there are practical and easy ways to plan for, and then create space for the five practices. In Orlando, we can see and learn from best practices across the nation so that we all can find ways to activate your space for talk, sing, read, write and play practices:  all so essential to young children and their grownups.

First, creating a play space in your library allows for a new type of learning in our spaces:  active, engaged learning that allows children to problem solve and take on the role of learning by doing and being the ‘expert’ in any situation.  Play spaces help families learn together and celebrate their successes as important roles in children’s learning.  It has been documented at the Chicago Public Library that where we have put in play spaces we see families staying up to 40% longer, returning more often, attending more programs and coming together across communities to learn together as families and build friendships.  These all benefit 21st Century’s library goals, and are important for us as we promote our services to stakeholders.

The benefits of play are numerous and the LEGO Foundation spells them out in their Power of Play white paper which cites play as critical to the ‘balanced development of children’.  Play allows children to use their imagination and creativity, and is, at base, a form of communication.  It has been called essential to human development, and the UN calls it a fundamental right of children.  And libraries are proudly joining in as places for play as we embrace learning in its many environments.  Of the five types of play:  Physical Play, Play with Objects, Symbolic Play, Pretend and Socio-Emotional play and Games with Rules,   can you find some easy ways to incorporate play into your spaces and programming?

And what about the other four skills?  Think about ways you can encourage talking in your library.  A library pet goldfish in a bowl with a simple question or prompt about the fish each week, a comparison chart of your height to various animals, bean sprouts growing in baggies on the windows or a whisper tube such as the one Amanda Roberson at Hartford County Public Library, St. Mary’s County Library has installed are all inexpensive, fun and whimsical ways to encourage families to talk with one another.  Close your own eyes and visualize the moment a whispered “I love you” between a parent and child travels all along the talk tube and into the ear, the brain and the heart of the receiving child.  Or consider the thrill families will have upon finding and discovering their bean sprouts have grown since their last visit to you.

Singing happens in story hours all the time: we sing songs, action rhymes, play music and dance, but why leave it for just program time?  What if you had a nursery rhyme or children’s song station and a small, play microphone?  Encourage children and their adults to take turns singing the song of the week.  What a goofy and fun station that can encourage breaking language down into its basic parts.

Reading we know has its foundations in various aspects of ECCR2 such as letter recognition and print awareness.  Add letter toys such as Lakeshore Learning’s Alphabet Apples or their Magnetic alphabet maze into your play areas to help encourage letter recognition.  These toys encourage play with letters and phonemic awareness.  Integrate such toys into your books for a fun, literacy play experience.

Writing:  Dr. Nell Duke talks about the significance of writing in early literacy development, but how can we add this into a physical space?  Think about an easel white board that can be put in your space with accessible markers,  write and wipe lapboards for writing letters in story hours, or a letter writing or post box station.  Sentence start strips are also great ways for children and families to feel ownership in the library and can be an easy way to decorate:  Start a bulletin board with the letters “On my way to the library, I saw….” And then leave sentence strips out for families to complete.  Young children can dictate their sentence or story which can lead to a great bonding experience and fun narrative skills.  Then, add these to your board as a fun and easy way to create a fresh display that is child centered.

Please join President Andrew Medlar at this year’s ALSC Charlemae Rollins President’s Program: Libraries: The Space to Be to learn more from the experts around the country:  folks like you!  National experts in space design and children’s creativity will be side by side for a fascinating panel discussion on creative children’s space.  Best practices for small, medium and large libraries will be showcased in this important look into how space and our programs in libraries transform.

We hope you can join us!

Liz McChesney, Chicago Public Library
Co-chair Charlemae Rollins President Program 2016

Christy Estrovitz, San Francisco Public Library
Co-chair Charlemae Rollins President Program 2016

One comment

  1. Andrew Medlar

    So well said . . . and inspirational! Thank you, Liz & Christy!

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