It was the second Wednesday of the month at 11:00 AM, which meant it was time to visit with the senior citizens at the Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Family Support Center for the Eating Together Program in Baltimore, Maryland. The Eating Together program is a place where seniors gather to share a meal, exercise, socialize, and on this particular day, listen to me talk about the importance of early literacy for children between the ages of birth and 5 years.
While this may seem like an unlikely group for such a message, senior citizens are a great group with whom to share your early literacy outreach messages. In the audience at the Family Support Center, several of the attendees are former educators and all of them are proud parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents. They are after school tutors, Sunday School teachers, and community leaders. In essence, they are people who are in regular contact with very young children and can help to support their early literacy needs.
If you have the ability to conduct outreach to senior centers, adding a lesson or two from the Every Child Ready to Read at Your Library curriculum will likely prove interesting if not necessary. Many seniors have grandchildren living in their homes, and equipping them with the same information that we provide to parents and other caregivers is an opportunity to add one more layer of early literacy support to a young child. For those who do not have the ability to go into the community, find some time to talk to the seniors who gather in your branches for exercise, crafts, and other activities. I found through my work with seniors that they are vital, engaged, and willing to help. They want to feel needed, wanted and have so much to offer the children in their lives.
When I met with my seniors, as I began to refer to them, I always knew that I would have a crowd of warm and wonderful people who enjoyed learning how to share books with children, songs that they can sing to them, and new ways to approach teach the children in their lives. I encourage all outreach librarians to consider adding stops to senior centers. Involving seniors in early literacy will be a great benefit to the little ones they can reach, but it is also a wonderful way to keep them connected and inspired.
Our guest blogger today is Eiyana Favers. Eiyana is the Early Literacy Outreach Specialist at Enoch Pratt Free Library in Baltimore, Maryland and wrote this piece as a member of the Early Childhood Programs and Services Committee.