Blogger Intellectual Freedom Committee

Serving up Outreach with a Side of Information Literacy

Information literacy can add new dimension to outreach programs.  The ALSC Intellectual Freedom Committee is continuing its series of blog posts on incorporating intellectual freedom and information literacy into cornerstone, everyday library programs. Just like sneaking healthy food into a kid’s meal, these techniques will enrich the work you already do as a librarian. For this post, we’ll focus on tips for incorporating information literacy into outreach programming for kids.

Consider these tips to build information literacy skills at any age:

Tip 1: create opportunities for kids to brainstorm and come up with good questions about things they’d like to know (Identifying the information need).

Tip 2: help kids become aware of tools they can use to answer their questions -library materials, community groups, and individual experts (Planning how to find information).

Tip 3: provide practice in using keyword searches, taking notes, and designing things like simple surveys or interview questions. (Gathering information)

Tip 4: show how to look critically at sources, identify high-quality information, and investigate questionable claims (Evaluating sources).

Tip 5: have your participants put their information to some use, help them with strategies for presenting it effectively (Organizing and communicating information).

Outreach is critical for extending service to non-users or underserved groups. Effective outreach for children often involves community partnerships -childcare providers, schools, shelters, hospitals, summer camps, or local festivals, for example.

Here are 2 sample programs to try. Adapt them to fit your community!

THEME: Nutrition       SKILLS: Collect and use data

Am I eating a nutritious lunch?

Following a shared lunch (perhaps through outreach programs like Summer Food Service), read and share books relating to the elements of good nutrition, like How did that Get in My Lunchbox? (C. Butterworth) or The Monster Health Book (E. Miller).

  • What food groups are represented in today’s lunch? Are the meals balanced? Search for nutrition information, using related nonfiction titles or materials from sites like Nutrition for Kids (Mayo Clinic), or the USDA’s Choose My Plate site.
  • Which foods are most popular? How can we find out? Create a survey, gather and organize results, produce a visual representation.

For older kids: Provide nutrition labels for a variety of food products. Using these, challenge kids to assemble a healthy menu, for a meal or a day. EatRight, from the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, has some accessible information on reading nutrition labels.

THEME: Weather forecasting       SKILLS: Identifying information need; locating information

Why are weather forecasts important, and how do we find out about the weather?

This topic could be of particular interest to kids taking part in outdoor programs, such as those provided through local parks departments.

  • You can get the conversation started by appearing in clothes that are inappropriate for the weather that day (a big coat in summer; flip-flops in winter…). How do you know what to wear for the day?
  • Share the book Rain by Manja Stojic and discuss ways we can tell when the weather is changing.
  • Talk about the value of weather forecasts.
  • How do we know what the weather will be (what are some sources)?
  • What’s the forecast for tomorrow?

Close the session by reading about the completely outlandish weather conditions in Judi Barrett’s Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs.


Liz Hartnett is a Program Coordinator at the South Carolina Center for Community Literacy, part of the University of South Carolina’s School of Library and Information Science, and a co-chair of the ALSC Intellectual Freedom Committee. Please note that as a guest post, the views expressed here do not represent the official position of ALA or ALSC.


This post addresses the following ALSC Core Competency: Programming Skills

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