Little steps into literacy – library programs for babies children and teens

 

My fieldwork placements at Hervey Bay and Helensvale public libraries gave me the chance to see public libraries at work, creating a hub for young families and teens to explore and discover literacy through a supported community environment.  I gained a deeper understanding of the value of providing communities with a meeting place, welcoming all ages and facilitating access to print, digital and electronic resources that may otherwise be unavailable or unknown.

 

Queensland Pubic Libraries Association, ALIA and State Library of Queensland have been proactive in formulating programs, products and services to meet the needs of young families in Queensland, guides by organisational policies and vision statements.

 

The recent Queensland Government initiative First 5 Forever is a literacy program freely available at public libraries, for ‘children and their families from babyhood’. The program is scheduled in public libraries and is designed to introduce babies and their parents or caregivers to literacy, rhymes and interaction developing both social and language skills.

 

Hervey Bay and Helensvale libraries offered additional programs, inviting young mums, dads and caregivers to bring their babies and toddlers to ‘Rattle and Rhyme’ sessions in a dedicated space within the library. The sessions include favourite rhymes and activities to engage participants through music and literacy. Toddler Stomp and Story Time similarly engaged young toddlers, aged 2 – 6 years in more active participation in the program – bringing a story to life with movement and playful actions.

 

The catalyst for increased funding for early literacy was the release of 2012 Australian Early Development Census data which revealed that 26.2% of Queensland children are ‘developmentally vulnerable or at risk on one or more  developmental domains – including language and cognitive skills’.  Follow the link to see a compréhensive report on early learning literacy.

Activity and play elements within these programs increases children’s learning according to The Early Years Learning Framework for Australia. Playing increases ‘physical, emotional, personal, spitirual, creative, cognitive and linguistic aspects, which are ‘intricately interwoven and interrelated’.   Playing in a non-confrontational environment with carers and library educators working together, gives children confidence to be creative, develop new friendships and to make connections with new concepts.

The literacy program extends to children over 5 years with school holiday programs to introduce coding and computer programs. These programs allow children without internet connectivity access to wifi and experience with programs not otherwise available to them.

 

Straw Maze in cardboard
Straw Maze in cardboard

After school programs conducted at Helensvale involved play activities based on Science, Technology, Engineering and Math [STEM] learning. By structuring the program on play and interaction with craft materials, children are guided through basic STEM activities interactively. Individual folders record the child’s participation with a token sticker of success. Using straws, pom poms, glue and cardboard, children constructed a maze board and blew the pom poms through the maze.

Paper Plate Marble Maze
Paper Plate Marble Maze

 

 

Another activity used marbles, paper plates and coloured paper to construct a rolling ball maze. Children learned about science (gravity and physics) and engineering (design of the maze).

 

 

Scratch programs also offered as an after-school activity are small group activities using a media room with eight children and instructor, following simple coding instructions to create an interactive computer game. Children can continue to navigate this program at home as it is an open access program freely available on the net.   The library facilitates that first step, giving the participants the confidence to try it.

 

Libraries in regional communities such as Fraser Coast, bridge the digital divide for children who may not have internet access at home. Coding programs are a major initiative of VISION 2017 to provide challenging learning experiences in digital literacy. The Kodu, Scratch and Python program was chosen by Fraser Coast Libraries as the preferred program for children based on consultation and collaboration with children, parents and educators. The critical first step in any program is to know what it is that your users want, when they want it and why they want it. Building a program around this foundation is key to connectedness and engagement.

 

Similarly, libraries and the library brand is still alive and well with children, teens and families. Summer Reading programs and  Reader’s Cup invite participation from older children and teens. Book series and themed collections offer a challenge to compete and to interact through discussion of the books, trivia quizzes, critical reviews.

ALIA’s primary guideline for providing services to young people is.. to assist in the development of early literacy and promote literacy.  A further guideline is to provide access to resources and materials identified as being needed by the community the library serves.

I think that the SLQ VISION 2017 framework is providing a realistic structure from which public libraries can develop literacy programs that relate to their communities.