Cumberland County Public Library & Information Center in Fayetteville, NC established interactive Early Literacy Family (ELF) Corners at all eight locations to encourage families to develop pre-reading skills with their children from birth through five years old. ELF Corners enrich children’s learning through interactive manipulatives to encourage children and their caregivers to talk, sing, read, write, and play.
Board books, games, puzzles and imaginative play resources support interactions between adult and child. Youth Services librarians utilize these engaging manipulatives to model Every Child Ready to Read best practices and promote books and resources through individual consultations with adults to strengthen pre-reading skills.
Impromptu story time experiences demonstrated effective reading techniques. ELF Corners provide a non-threatening environment for new families to engage in literacy activities. As a parent summarized her early literacy experiences for her child, “every time I walk into my library, I never leave disappointed. My daughter is more enriched every trip.”
Bringing new materials into a physical space serves to break down perceived barriers between library users and their experience in their library. Patrons most likely benefit from accepting the components of Every Child Ready to Read when they feel comfortable and supported within the space.
Manipulatives serve to strengthen Every Child Ready to Read techniques. All library locations surveyed customers to determine patrons’ reactions to the new ELF Corners.
One parent shared, “We love using the early literacy corner and are pleased with all of the educational toys available for children to use! Great addition to the children’s department.” Customers from this branch also commented on youth services staffers’ effectiveness in sharing early literacy instruction, mentioning “the programs are fantastic and [staff] SUPER!”
Children also learn vital social skills through the formation of these ELF Corners. One mother commented after her experience, “We love the addition of the toys and activities in the early literacy corner. They allow the children to connect with one another which is so vital in a military community full of transplants.”
Not only do children have the opportunity to develop these crucial social skills, another unexpected outcome is that customers enjoy the public library for longer periods of time than before the creation of early literacy corners. Parents are more likely to utilize board book collections while interacting in this space. Many anecdotal examples demonstrate ELF Corners’ positive impact.
This literacy project relied heavily on partner involvement through relationships formed with other community organizations. Many items within the formation of ELF Corners were created through a $45,656 grant from the federal Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) under provisions of the Library Services and Technology Act as administered by the State Library of North Carolina, a division of the Department of Cultural Resources.
What did families notice by visiting these interactive spaces? Families noticed that learning is presented in an engaging and age appropriate manner for young children. A mother shared, “My children enjoyed learning and playing in the early literacy corner. This corner makes learning fun for children.” This comment summarizes the positive learning experience this literacy space embodies for patrons of all ages. Another customer commented, “The new early literacy corner is great for the kids. . . It makes us want to come every day!”
Collaboration is such a valuable part of youth services librarianship. Please share how you utilize early literacy spaces in your libraries in the comments below!