Blogger Early & Family Literacy committee

Play and Literacy Programming for Preschoolers

Turning Research into Practice – Connecting Play and Literacy

There’s plenty of information available about the importance of play in child development. Unfortunately, the perception persists for a caregiver to see a child stacking a pile of blocks and say, “oh, they’re just playing”. Librarians have an important role in bridging the research/practice gap with programs which empower parents to recognize and engage with their children during these important learning moments connecting play and literacy.

Resources from a Community Partner

My library’s relationship with our local Head Start chapter led me to explore Head Start / U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ online Early Childhood Knowledge and Learning Center, a treasure trove of research and practical guidance. Their February 2022 webinar, “Learning to Play and Playing to Learn in Home Environments” reminds viewers that play supports a child’s innate desire to learn, and that children are born with the natural drive of wondering “why” and being curious about things and people. Incorporating this knowledge into accessible, enjoyable programs takes a lot more thought than budget, but the result is worth the effort.

Put the Fun in Fundamentals

Yesterday I led our department’s “Word Play Babies” program (ages 12-24 months with caregiver), which encourages children’s language and literacy development through play, reassuring caregivers that they can, and likely already are, doing just that. Incorporating elements from ALSC’s “Babies Need Words Every Day” initiative, and ideas from books in our own parenting collection, the librarian’s language is not scholarly in any way and avoids information overload. Activities in “Word Play Babies” use found items around the house, creating play moments to bring caregivers’ attention to what important developmental skills their child is using during a particular play activity. For example:

  • Offer a shoe box as an elementary puzzle for a baby. How does the lid fit the bottom? Add an item to put in, under, or next to the box to introduce positional concepts and encourage parents to use the vocabulary to describe what their child is seeing.
  • Give caregiver and child a sheet of stickers to put on any of their body parts, naming those parts as they go along.
  • Blow bubbles, pointing out to adults how babies visually track the bubbles as they float and use eye-hand coordination to try and pop them.  
  • “Word Play Babies” also incorporates reading a board book once as a group, then allowing time for caregiver and child to read again on their own.  
  • There’s so much learning going on, the trick of this program is to create an atmosphere that’s conversational and relaxed while helping caregivers support children’s everyday learning moments.

Inspired Patrons, Happy Librarians

At the end of yesterday’s program, two parents thumbed through books on display featuring baby and toddler games.  As we talked about the books together, one parent smiled and remarked, “I could do that!” and took a book home. My thought? Best. Day. Ever.

Today’s blogger is Marybeth Kozikowski. Marybeth is a member of the ALSC Early and Family Literacy Committee and works as a Librarian II, Children’s Services at Sachem Public Library, Holbrook, NY.

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