Commitment to Client Group

Ask ALSC

Welcome to Ask ALSC, where the Managing Youth Services Committee asks leaders in children’s libraries to share their response to an issue or situation.  We hope to showcase a range of responses to topics that may affect ALSC members. If you’d like to respond to today’s topic or suggest a topic for the future, then please leave a comment.

This Ask ALSC post will focus on caregiver involvement in library programming for toddlers preschool aged children. During a sensory program, there are three hands on activity stations that require caregivers to assist their children; however, several caregivers are more focused on playing at the stations themselves rather than assisting their child with the activity.

I surveyed library managers and veteran youth librarians to see what they might do to help navigate this type of situation. Those surveyed provided three suggestions:

  1. MODEL: When librarians model the desired behavior, they provide both the child and caregiver the chance to learn through imitation. We know from child psychologists that children often learn through imitation. By watching the librarian model the activity, the caregiver can observe and follow the librarian’s lead. The child can, in turn, follow their caregiver’s lead. The librarian can also display a small sign with some probing questions at each table to assist caregivers in using open ended questions during the activity.
  2. DELEGATE: Provide the caregivers with specific jobs during the program. The jobs a caregiver can be assigned will vary with the activity. They may include things like: help the child hold materials; ask the child questions about the activity; ask the child to tell a story about what they are doing; and assist the child in the set-up and clean-up process.
  3. EXTEND: Teach the caregivers how to provide similar experiences for their children at home. This could include lessons or printed instructions on how to make playdough, slime, or fake snow. Be sure to provide information on other sensory activities and special services the library provides.

If these suggestions fail, then a gentle reminder to the caregiver that the goal of the activity is for them to participate together can be useful.

Today’s blog post was written by Jenny Yergin, Children’s Services Assistant Manager at the Anderson Public Library on behalf of the ALSC Managing Children’s Services Committee.

This blog relates to ALSC Core Competencies of I. Commitment to Client Group, II. Reference and User Services, III. Programming Skills, and V. Outreach and Advocacy.

One comment

  1. Carissa Christner

    I think that the Model, Delegate and Extend suggestions are really excellent options, especially for responding in the moment to parents who are not interacting in the way we’d hoped they would. In planning for future programs, I would re-think the design of the “stations.” If there is a “right” and “wrong” way to do an activity, often parents feel an obligation to be overly helpful to their child, sometimes to the point of doing the project for their child so that it doesn’t turn out “wrong.” Clearly, this isn’t beneficial to the child’s learning. Instead, I’d re-design the program so that activities are more open-ended, more process-oriented and so that it was clear to parents that their child couldn’t “fail.” One more program design element is making sure that parent expectations are set clearly from the beginning. Every parent-child program seems to have different expectations for what the caregiver’s role is and explaining those expectations directly at the outset can go a long way towards helping all of the adults in the room end up on the same page.

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