Monday, October 20, 2014

“Responsive Programming” Early Literacy Webinar Reminder

Pixabay image
Join us for the Growing Wisconsin Readers Fall Webinar Series on Tuesday, October 21, 1:00-2:15pm.  Tomorrow’s presentation on “Responsive Programming” features the experiences of Wisconsin public librarians who have creatively and thoughtfully responded to local programming needs by:
  • Collaborating with a local non-profit to create family outreach storytimes
  • Offering language-specific storytimes
  • Increasing storytime attendance by increasing the number of storytimes offered
  • Developing age-specific storytimes

Please join us for an invaluable session about what happens when you listen to your community!

All webinars in this series will be held live, recorded, and available for free--no registration required. Webinar archives can be found under “Professional Development” on the Youth and Special Services webpage:

Access the live webinar through Blackboard Collaborate via the following link:

Attendees who need telephone audio (versus VoIP) should use the conference number: 1-877-820-7831 and enter participant passcode:  697156. 
Test your system beforehand  
Blackboard Collaborate overview video 
Blackboard Collaborate online support or phone (877) 382-2293

Friday, October 17, 2014

Early Literacy Newsflash

Pixabay image
Several important early literacy news pieces and resources have been shared recently. Below are some noteworthy headlines to check out:


  1. The American Academy of Pediatrics released a toolkit for doctors and other health-care providers that will help them talk to parents about early literacy. The toolkit, called Books Build Connections, was released Oct. 12 at the annual convention of the pediatrician's group in San Diego. It is a followup to an AAP policy statement released in June that urged doctors to encourage parents to read, talk, and sing to their children beginning at birth. (See EdWeek for more). 

Screen Time and New Media

  1. "How best to prepare kids for the digital world," an opinion piece by Heather Hopp-Bruce in the Boston Globe offers an intriguing graphic and discussion about moving "the conversation away from how much screen time to what kind of screen time."
  2. The New York Times recently asked, "Is E-Reading to Your Toddler Story Time, or Simply Screen Time?" Not all of the research is in since this area is constantly evolving, but a point is made that "when it comes to learning language, researchers say, no piece of technology can substitute for a live instructor — even if the child appears to be paying close attention."
  3. Little eLit released the first chapter of their book, Young Children, New Media, and Libraries, online. This first chapter, entitled “New Media in Youth Librarianship,” was written by Cen Campbell and Amy Koester. This project has been a work in progress for some time, with many contributing authors. Subsequent chapters will be released once per month, on the 15th, until all chapters have been published at At that point, the entire work will be put into a single PDF ebook document, including appendices and other additional materials.

Research Updates

  1. You may have heard of the Colorado State Library's SPELL Project -- Supporting Parents in Early Literacy through Libraries.  A new project just got started and it's called "Putting SPELL into Action."  Check out the abstract and other SPELL documents for ideas about how to identify barriers to early literacy and library use that low-income parents/caregivers of children birth-3 face and how libraries can remove/help parents overcome those barriers. 
  2. You may also have been keeping tabs on the University of Washington’s Project VIEWS2 storytime initiative.  Project VIEWS2 was conceived in response to public librarians and library directors across the state of Washington asking “how can we know whether the early literacy focus of our storytimes makes a difference for the children’s learning to read successfully?” A host of tools that support early literacy and public libraries can be found on the resources page. 

Thursday, October 16, 2014

The Birth of Storytime Lab at Fremont Public Library

Storytime Lab Offers Experimentation
Rambunctious children, inattentive caregivers, and a 4 yr. old kindergarten teacher who said her students did not know how to hold a pencil, or write with it, resulted in the birth of storytime lab at the Fremont Public Library.

Trying New Things at Storytime Lab
The lab is open to children of all ages.  A theme is presented each time, and before the lab starts, the children try to guess what theme it is.  We pass an object in a black tie string bag and the child puts their hand in it and feels it, then guesses.  The storytime lab consist of one nonfiction book, one song or chant, and one interactive story before breaking up into lab groups.  Each child is given a check off list and pencil or crayon. The child writes their name on the list, the best they can, and takes the list with them to the 4 stations they will visit.  After completion of the task, the child checks off a box and goes to the next station.  The 4 stations consist of eye hand coordination, fine motor skills, letter/word recognition, math, and science.  
The Powers of Observation

The Magic of Microwaving
Simple instructions are numbered and read by the caregiver to the child.  If necessary, we ask the caregiver to repeat the instructions, rather than say "I'll help you".  We emphasize that this is the child's lab and they can work at their own pace. There is a lot of tweezer play, counting, sorting, measuring, writing, and creative drawing.   Science is by far the favorite station.We usually blow things up in the microwave, or make oozy substances. 

It  has become so popular that we've had school age children wanting to stay home so they can come to the lab with their little sibling and do the science experiment.  After the child finishes all 4 stations, he/she brings the checked off list to a librarian for a reward sticker.

Susan O'Leary Frick, Director

Photos supplied by the author

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Going Bananas Over New Book Bunches

Greetings from the Land of Colby Cheese!  The Colby Public Library (CPL) is located in smack dab in the middle of the state…and yes, that Colby cheese you buy at the grocery store was invented in our home town! While cheese may be our claim to fame, the staff and patrons at the CPL are going bananas over our new Book Bunches program.

Book Bunches On An Endcap at CPL
 We have a vibrant pre-school story time running Thursday mornings during the academic school year, but we also realize there are families who cannot attend these weekly sessions.  To help them, we came up with the idea of bundling books into “bunches” to provide mini-story times in the comfort of one’s own home.

Our staff selects about twenty “themes” such as elephants, water, rocks, time, etc.   Juvenile books are pulled that support our thematic ideas.  We include three fiction books and two non-fiction ones.  We have found in our library picture books are checked out at a high rate, while non-fiction books are not as popular.  It is our sneaky way to introduce young listeners to the world of non-fiction by including these books in the bunches.  The books are then fastened together with strong two-way rubber bands.

An eye-catching laminated monkey label is attached.  The monkey’s tummy holds a picture clue as to what the bunch is about.  As most of these children cannot read yet, they have a fun time guessing the theme.  On the back of the tag, a list of the books is printed.  (This is helpful for when the bunches come back willy-nilly in the book drop—they are easily reassembled by consulting the tag.)

In another lifetime, I was a store display designer/decorator.  For me, the most fun portion of
Going Bananas For Books
designing the Book Bunches program was the decorating.  Inflatable monkeys hang from the ceiling among felt leaves and yarn vines.  Green burlap provides a jungle floor base on the shelves.  Banana boxes are joined together and fastened to the shelf end cap to provide fun peek-a-boo holes to place some of the smaller bundles.  Children gravitate to the section, as they cannot resist the allure of the display.

Our autumn story time will focus on zoo animals.  The story time children will also be encouraged to check out the Book Bunches.  At the first session, the treat for the children will be—you guessed it—healthy, delicious bananas.

If you are ever passing through Colby, I invite you to stop in and visit.  We are busy “Growing Wisconsin Readers,” but we are never too busy to show everyone our facility and programs.

Vicky L. Calmes, Director

Friday, October 10, 2014

Connecting the Early Literacy Dots

On this week's "Community Connections" webinar (part of the Growing Wisconsin Readers Fall Webinar Series), several panelists mentioned the use of research to express the importance of early literacy. You can find a sampling of tools on the Growing Wisconsin Readers webpage under "Early Literacy Research and Inspiration" in the Resources for Librarians section.

Early literacy links from Melissa Depper
For more early literacy research and resources, check out this recent post from Mel's Desk.  She writes, "These are also some of the starting points I used to gather the information I shared as my part of our recent ALSC Institute session, “Thinking Outside the Storytime Box: Building Your Preschool Programming Repertoire.” During the presentation, Amy CAmy K, and Marge showcased some of their favorite literacy-based programs, then I got to jump in and provide a little bit of rationale for each one, showing how they connected to the ECRR six skills and five practices, and pointing to relevant research and articles. (Slides & handout for the session at the linked title; links to blog posts about the ALSC Institute at each name.)" 

CLEL Bell Awards
Thanks Mel, a Colorado colleague, for helping us collaborate between states!  Also, if you'd like to join Melissa and other early literacy librarians, check out the CLEL Bell Awards Goodreads Discussion Group. Join the conversation about the best picture books that support early literacy skill building. 

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Kewaunee Children and Families Are “Hooked On Books”

1,000 Book Program Participants
Last fall, the Kewaunee Public Library was awarded a Growing Wisconsin Readers mini-grant, which allowed us to begin a 1,000 Books Before Kindergarten program. We chose a “Hooked On Books” fish theme, because our community is located on the shore of Lake Michigan. So far, over 70 families have signed up for the program.

When families sign up, they receive a “Pout, Pout Fish” book, tote bag, and reading log to track the number of books they read. For every 100 books read, they get a small motivator (for example, fish crackers, fish sunglasses, etc). Our only regret was purchasing fish “clappers” which are LOUD and drive parents and librarians alike a little insane!

Two Readers Enjoy Their Paperback Pups
When families reach 1,000 books, they have successfully completed the program and receive a larger reward—a “Paperback Pup” stuffed animal donated by the Build-A-Bear company. Also as part of the “Hooked on Books” program, we provide outreach. Every month, we go into 4K classrooms in our elementary school and two child care centers to read to the children.  

Since last fall, children and families in the program have read over 11,000 books! The program is encouraging parents to be their child’s first teacher and read together every day. Also, we have found that families are coming to the library more often to get library cards, check out material, and attend our story time and other programs. Finally, the ongoing outreach we provide has strengthened our relationship with teachers and childcare providers. We have started to collaborate on other projects that promote reading and education in our community.

Local businesses heard about the program and donated money and goods toward incentives, which will allow us to sustain the program for years to come. We are grateful for all of the financial support. Overall, the “Hooked on Books” program was a fairly easy to implement and a wonderful way to prepare children to become independent readers, succeed in school, and become life-long learners.

Pam Lathrop-Roets, Librarian
Kewaunee PublicLibrary, Kewaunee, WI

Photos credited to author

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Catalyst for Collaboration

Promoting Growing Wisconsin Readers
When I first heard about the Growing Wisconsin Readers initiative, I was intrigued and excited to have a statewide initiative with practical tools for librarians and caregivers to use to promote early learning.  What surprised me was how receptive staff from other agencies were to the concept and the materials.  After several years of working on establishing connections with early childhood providers, I found that the Growing Wisconsin Readers really paved the way to greater opportunities to collaborate.  I think this initiative gave my efforts more credibility.

As a result of the Growing Wisconsin Readers initiative, I began brainstorming and working with early childhood consultants from two of the CESAs that serve our region.  As a result of that work, I
Great Minds Think Alike (Pixabay Image)
was invited to attend regular meetings of the Western Region of the Wisconsin Early Childhood CollaboratingPartners.  Members of this group work with Public Health, Birth to Three, UW Extension, Head Start, and several other organizations.  It has been marvelous to develop relationships with the people who wholeheartedly welcome libraries into the conversation.  I have been learning a huge amount about what our colleagues in other fields are doing, and have plenty of food for thought about how libraries can fit into the equation to promote optimal conditions for young children and their families.

Navigating New Media (Pixabay Image)
My new partners and I are planning work together to help early childhood professionals (including librarians) in our region learn to be Media Mentors—helping families and caregivers navigate the murky waters of young children and technology.  I am looking forward to creating more opportunities for librarians and other early childhood professionals to meet, network, and share ideas.  Everyone is doing great work in their own practice, and the potential for when we start sharing resources, ideas, and know-how is sky-high.

Leah Langby, Library Development and Youth Services Coordinator