In their session, “Help! My Child Is Learning How to Read: Supporting K-3rd Graders and their Families,” the Denver Public Library shared their strategies for making sure they were serving their K-3 population well as they developed into readers. Part of their mission was to make sure that staff were as able to serve this age group, as they are dedicated to serving pre-readers.
One new service they started to offer are their “Welcome to Reading kits.” These kits are packaged in check-out-able clear bags, containing books, activities, tips and more, all designed to support growing readers. The kits are tied to the different skills kids need to become readers. One example shared was a “level one decoding kit,” that included books kids could read using their decoding skills. The kits include traditional “early reader” books, but also graphic novels, picture books, and nonfiction. They also include at least one diverse book.
I know one of my least favorite questions to get on the children’s desk is “Where are your books for first graders?” Because the honest answer is: everywhere! No two first graders are exactly alike, and we don’t organize our books by grade level. A take-home kit like these could help you speedily direct the patrons to what they need, if they don’t have time for a director’s cut explanation about reading levels and publishing standards.
In their talk, Denver Public Library also shared other methods for making books great for beginning readers more findable. In their system, they use subject headings to allow families to search their catalog, but they also mentioned that some communities might do better with special shelving, or stickering (both of which my library system uses, and which have worked great for us).
Although I’ve seen themed kits in different library systems before, I’ve most often seen them targeted at families with preschool-aged children, or for families who have a special need (sensory kits for neurodiverse children, for example, or kits on tough topics like grief or illness). I’m excited to start thinking about the possibilities of kits for growing readers, and other ways we can support this demographic.