Blogger Maria Trivisonno

Talk with Me Toolkits

Last year, my library (Cuyahoga County Public Library-CCPL) had the opportunity to participate in an Institute of Museum and Library Services grant that had been awarded to the Family Place Libraries™ in partnership with the Smithsonian Office of Educational Technology (OET) and Goodling Institute for Research in Family Literacy (GI) at Penn State University.

Our charge? To give constructive feedback on the Smithsonian’s Talk with Me Toolkits so that they could be updated and made more useful to families.  Four libraries participated in the grant: CCPL, Middle Country Public Library, Hillsboro City Library, and York County Libraries

The toolkits were developed for children ages 5-8 and their adults, using the Smithsonian’s collections to foster conversation and promote children’s language development.  In short—this aligns firmly with Every Child Ready to Read skills that can still be developed and enriched during the early elementary years (such as the practice of talking and the early literacy skill of vocabulary)

The toolkits consist of images from the Smithsonian Collection and curated videos on related topics.  Accompanying each image or video is a list of important vocabulary terms and questions to elicit conversation between child and adult.  Several related activities, complete with supply lists and instructions, follow. The toolkits are capped off with an age-appropriate book list and discussion questions.

Libraries participating in the grant were asked to use the toolkits in programming with two 15-family cohorts.  I held one in spring and one in fall of 2023 at our Brooklyn Branch.  Six toolkits were used over the six-week program.  Researchers from the Goodling Institute attended the first and last sessions, observing how families used the toolkits and talking through the consent and evaluation processes.  Staff and caregivers were surveyed and spoke with researchers about their use of the toolkits.

Photos courtesy of the author.
Kids show off the pictures they drew of their communities.

The most fascinating part of the process for me was seeing how the toolkits evolved between cohort one and cohort two.  The feedback we gave was used to, in my opinion, improve the toolkits’ uses and relatability.  I would highly recommend you look at them to get STEAM programming ideas, especially as summer is around the corner.  Families truly enjoyed them in our programming and wanted the links so they could do further activities at home. 

Currently, there are six Talk with Me Toolkits, including:

We recently learned that six more toolkits are being developed.  I can’t wait to see what topics they will cover! 


This post addresses the core competency of I. Commitment to Client Group and III. Programming Skills.

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