KAREN N. NEMETH & CEN CAMPBELL
When is the last time you talked to a children’s librarian? If it’s been a while, this is a great time to strike up a conversation. You’ll be surprised at the innovative activities, programs, and services children’s librarians offer preschool teachers, young children, and families. With new and diverse materials and resources, librarians make wonderful partners for educators who want to meet each child’s individual needs. Librarians provide three main services: collections, outreach, and programs.
A big collection of books is still a library’s most important feature, but libraries also function as new media leaders. Libraries offer music collections, audio books, and computer games. Many even lend tablets or e-readers preloaded with librarian-curated content. Libraries also take recommendations from the community. Teachers who need books or other materials for their program can ask their local library to purchase them.
Preschool teachers in New Brunswick, New Jersey, visit their local library often to borrow children’s books, travel books, music, cookbooks, and other resources in Hungarian, Spanish, Portuguese, Chinese, and many other languages needed in their diverse classrooms. When families who speak a new language enroll in their program, the teachers ask the librarians for more resources in that language.
Bringing library services to community organizations that serve children is a core principle of children’s librarianship. Librarians are eager to reach out and meet the changing needs of their community. They want to know the families in their area and find new ways to bring them to the library.
Many library systems have bookmobiles or delivery vans that provide books, bilingual resources, multimedia resources, and even Internet access. Some bookmobiles or other mobile library services stop at preschools and offer story time or other literacy programs.
Nicki Carteaux, director of a Head Start program in Ligonier, Indiana, learned that her local library was offering literacy services at local preschools. She arranged for the children’s librarian to visit the Head Start center weekly to present an early literacy program, engage teachers and children in a related activity, and deliver a borrowed-book bag for children to take home.
The Pierce County Library System in Tacoma, Washington, lists resources for teachers on their website, including professional development classes, an oral health project, and a block project. The library also runs Ready for Books, a program that delivers books and resource materials to local preschool programs.
In remote Bridgetown, Nova Scotia (population 1,000), in Canada, the Annapolis Valley regional library provides mobile library services to schools and preschools. Each of the 11 branches in Annapolis Valley has an individualized relationship with preschools in their service areas. Angela Reynolds, head of children’s services for the regional library, also helps connect libraries and schools by teaching early childhood education classes at the local community college.
Children’s librarians are experts at choosing high-quality books and media for young children. They have been using developmentally appropriate practice in story times and literacy programming for a long time.
NAEYC’s Week of the Young Child, which takes place every April, coincides with El día de los niños/El día de los libros (Children’s Day/Book Day), often called Dia. Founded by author Pat Mora, Dia celebrates diversity through children, families, and reading every day. It culminates yearly on April 30 and is often celebrated all month long.
Every Child Ready to Read is a literacy-based parent education initiative sponsored by the American Library Association. It helps families and teachers support early literacy development at home and at school with books and e-books.
New media for young children
Children’s librarians are leaders in using new media with young children. They are up-to-date with recent e-books and apps and how to incorporate those tools into traditional early literacy programming. Since librarians are trained experts in evaluating and curating reading materials, they can help others find and use the best apps, websites, and software for individuals and for groups of preschoolers. In turn, websites and communities such as LittleeLit.com support children’s librarians as they advance into the digital realm.
Library websites may also offer additional electronic resources. Many libraries subscribe to programs that feature digital books and extension activities, such as TumbleBookLibrary and BookFlix. These programs also feature books in different languages so each child can learn in a way that fits his needs.
The library in Darien, Connecticut, offers early literacy iPad kits that can be checked out and taken home, as well as digital storytelling programs and an array of resources for teachers about using new media with young children.
When applying for a grant or special funding, teachers may gain from partnering with another organization— including the local library. Not only does this show funders a willingness to work within the community, but it can also maximize or extend a limited budget.
Alpine County Library in Markleeville, California, addressed a tight budget by partnering with a local nonprofit organization that provides innovative child care solutions in low-income areas. The organization sends staff to the library to implement early literacy programming, while the Friends of the Library group supplies materials.
Librarians strengthen and connect their communities by providing up-to-date information, resources, and programming to teachers working with young children. Children’s librarians always want to hear about what children and teachers are working on and how they can help. When you partner with a children’s librarian, you will find new ways to individualize early literacy and learning for each child in your program. TYC