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.

 

 

 

 

 

Maryborough Toy and Special Needs Library

At Maryborough, a small regional centre, kilometres north of Brisbane, the Maryborough Toy and Special Needs Library [MTSNL]provides a specialised service offering toys, games, educational resources and devices for families with young children and children with special needs.

This community service is funded through local Council, State Government and Federal Government as well as specific grant funding when available.

The MTSNL is located within a community centre near the Fraser Coast Regional Council office in Maryborough city centre.  It is quite separate from the Fraser Coast Regional Council’s Maryborough Library service. The community centre  hosts family oriented community meetings such as prenatal and antenatal meet ups, support for ADHD families, disability support and teen pregnancy support – it’s a centre where the community is encouraged to support each other, share information and borrow resources and equipment that will assist them to have better quality of life.

Twice flooded, the MTSNL is new and purpose-built for storage of toys, puzzles, games, bikes, swings, slides and play-houses which are available for loan to  schools, therapists, health professionals and the general public for varying fees, according to circumstance.

A complex catalogue process, using a clearly defined thesaurus of descriptors, allows circulation of the resources which are categorised and classified into games and resources according to age and key learning areas – for example, numbers, alphabet, language, math, shapes, time, colours, visual perception, science, biology.  There are also tactile toys, building toys, bikes, balls and play equipment for under 5s separately stored on floor to ceiling shelves and in a large shed at the rear of the building with shelves of larger equipment which are loaned to users to  support children with disabilities. These resources are stored in order of recommended application for height and weight of the user.

The librarian who manages this centre has been at the library for more than 25 years.  Her local knowledge and awareness of the extent of the collection contributed to the accelerated operation of removal of all equipment, resources, furniture and office administration documentation and records from the building during the floods in 2011 and 2013.  During the second flood, the Mary River rose to the ceiling of the building within two hours of the removal of resources.

The collection is extensive and complex to administer because of the nature of the resources (pieces of puzzles, cards in a game, parts in Meccano, LEGO, teasets).  Health and Safety Legislation requires that equipment, toys and puzzles have to be cleaned and re-boxed or re-bagged to make sure that all pieces are available for the next borrower  Missing parts are noted on the resource. Even though this process is tedious and time-consuming it is always rigorously adhered to.

The service offers parents and carers a broad choice of educational resources and toys that will stimulate children’s imagination and develop cognitive skills.  Disability equipment is provided on a rotational basis so that it can be adjusted or replaced, aligned with the natural growth rate of the child, as advised by the health professional and guided by the manufacturer or supplier.

It is the librarian’s tacit knowledge and caring and informed interaction with the community that makes it a stand out service.  The librarian liaises with health professionals (physiotherapists, psychologists, doctors, disability advisors), educators, guidance officers, parents and carers to continually maintain and update the collection to meet the user needs.  Analyses of statistics in relation to circulation of the collection support regular grant applications which are submitted to fund the purchase of new equipment and resources.

According to Early Years Learning Framework, learning through play is a practice that is beneficial to children, developing imagination and social skills while engaging with ‘people, objects and representations’. Similarly Jenny Kidd from the Cerebral Palsy Association states that children with disabilities gain much from play, interaction and specific equipment. A toy library allows the children and their carers to choose from a variety of resources to identify the toy that meets their needs.

This is a wonderful service in a region where there is great need to support the community who has suffered due to extreme weather and the subsequent loss of quality of life through unemployment, disengagement and financial stress.

Congratulations to Fraser Coast Libraries and Maryborough Toy and Special Needs Library on their continued support and commitment.

 

Getting into the library thing

Where the Wild Things Are Bookstore at West End sends regular emails to customers to join them in their celebration of literature – there areinvitations to view new publications, speak to the authors, bring children to author chats and activities, listen to story time on Mondays, go to school holiday activities.

I know it’s a sales pitch, but it’s a great sales pitch .  The Wild Things community cares about literature, specialising in children’s literature. They promote local artists and authors, advise on books and activity choices for children of all ages and offer a wide spectrum of topics and interests.

Getting into the library thing early gives children a great start to learning, to imagining, to listening and to sharing stories with others.  It’s about widening horizons through reading, rhymes, poetry, painting and activities.

Facebook page creates an online community where the bookstore and its patrons can communicate and be updated on new books and upcoming events. Customers can also follow the bookstore programs by accessing its blog, following on twitter or viewing on youtube.

Creating a community of learning through a suburban bookstore where like-minded people can meet up and share their love of literature gives parents, carers and children a happy place to go to.