If you are anything like me, the first time someone asked you to be an advocate for the library you pictured attending some kind of librarian rally event, writing letters to congressmen, and making super scary presentations to library administration and other stakeholders. While all of these things are certainly advocacy, they were intimidating and sounded like they might take more time than I had. However, after becoming acquainted with Everyday Advocacy and doing a lot of thinking, I realized a lot of what I did every day was actually advocacy. Today, I’ll share an example of an early literacy program that I think of as developmentally appropriate advocacy.
In 2014, as a result of a random article from the internet and encouragement from many librarian friends, I gave Baby Storytime caregivers washable markers and oil pastels to use to decorate their babies’ faces (read more about the activity here). Every Child Ready to Read tells that practicing reading, singing, talking, writing, and playing with children every day helps them get ready to read. This activity encourages caregivers to talk to their babies and use vocabulary they might not typically use (how often do you talk about diabolical eyebrows with a baby?), caregivers are modeling writing, and are being extremely playful. This activity also encourages caregivers to photograph their babies and post these images on their Facebook pages or send them to family showing off what they did at the library today. This activity entered the regular rotation for an after storytime activity.
How is this advocacy? Caregivers learned, or had reinforced, the notion that the library is not a boring place just for reading and books. They learned that early literacy can be more than sharing books and that they have the tools already to help their child develop early literacy skills. They told all their friends that the library is a cool place because of this activity and others like it. Caregivers hated missing storytime because they were afraid to miss out on their favorite activities. Whenever we needed storytime participants to fill out surveys or comment cards they were more than happy to help. They would do anything to make sure storytimes continued and that storytime presenters were appreciated.
Do you have dedicated storytime families? Are your storytimes growing as a result? Do your storytime families help spread the word about the awesomeness of the library? If yes, congratulations, you are an advocate!
We would love to hear your stories! Matt McLain detailed in a previous Advocacy and Legislation blog, “Did You Know This Is Advocacy”, just how important these stories are personally, locally, and even nationally. Please take a moment to submit your advocacy story to the Everyday Advocacy website.
Kendra Jones is the Youth & Family Services Coordinator for the Timberland Regional Library in Washington State and a member of the ALSC Advocacy & Legislation committee. She is also a member of the Managing Children’s Services committee and Co-Chair of the Diversity within ALSC Task Force.