Library Displays – Toys and Early Literacy

Display Case full of toys

When creating displays in the youth department  it is a good goal to educate parents, children and educators on early literacy practices. Keeping the practices of Every Child Ready to Read in mind, the librarians in our youth department teamed up to construct a display that went beyond books and promoted the aspect of play by putting toys in our display case.

The catch is the toys we used weren’t just any toys, we searched through our basements and found the toys we had kept from our own childhoods. Depending on our ages, we found Madame Alexander Dolls, Cabbage Patch Dolls, My Little Ponies, Trolls, Barbies, old Playskool, old Fisher Price, old McDonald’s Happy Meal toys and much more.

Our library’s display case has 7 sections that are 30.5”wide x 18”deep x 58” tall with adjustable glass shelves in each section. Not only were we able to efficiently fill the case for the month of March, but it proved itself to be a very fun and successful display for both the librarians and patrons for the following reasons:

  1. It was fun to find our old toys and reminisce by telling each other stories about them while setting up

  2. The display was interactive for families as parents would get excited about a toy that they remembered from their childhood and tell their kids about it

  3. It became somewhat interactive between the patrons and the youth librarians as they guessed which toys belonged to which librarians

  4. If patrons asked why we had our old toys in the display case we were able to discuss the importance of play and how it related to early literacy

Displaying our childhood toys is by far one of my favorite displays that we have ever put together, yet it is not the only time we have used toys to focus on the aspect of play in relation to literacy. Other displays that we’ve had similar success with include:

  1. Lego Displays- We have had displays of what kids have created in Lego programs, but we have also had an adult who builds models of landmarks out of Legos use our display case. The models were a big hit because patrons loved taking pictures in front of them, which made them look like a giant next to small landmarks.

  2. Summer Reading Prizes- In the summer showcasing our summer reading prizes is a great incentive that inspires kids to sign up for our summer reading program.

Displays are a vital part of the library’s environment, especially in the youth department where they can add color and pizazz. While book displays are important for promoting the library’s materials and increasing circulation, focusing only on book displays can be a mistake. Toy displays or displays that focus on other aspects of literacy will receive more of a reaction from patrons and if people enjoy interacting with the displays they will be more likely to return.

(Pictures courtesy of guest blogger)


Today’s guest blogger is Angela Warsinske. Angela says she has her dream job as a youth services librarian at the Rochester Hills Public Library. She is passionate about early literacy; matching the right book to the right child so they will like reading; and is a big advocate of “say yes to the mess,” when it comes to youth programming. She also loves writing, art, musicals and dancing in general.

Please note that as a guest post, the views expressed here do not represent the official position of ALA or ALSC

If you’d like to write a guest post for the ALSC Blog, please contact Mary Voors, ALSC Blog manager, at alscblog@gmail.com.


One comment

  1. Kate Kardiff

    What a wonderful idea! Toys today do not hold a candle to the types of toys many of us played with as children (and I am not yet 30, but, oh my, how times have changed). Older toys are more basic, without all the electronic components prevalent nowadays, and so, being more basic in nature, the toys we all played with encourage a greater degree of imagination and creativity. And it truly is a heartwarming experience to share the toys that we loved as children with our own children or those that we work with. Love it, love it! #BacktoBasics #Play

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *