Friday, December 19, 2014

1000 Books Program Considerations

Since we at Johnson Creek Public Library first started our “1000 Books before Kindergarten” program in June of 2013, I have received many requests for information from librarians wanting to start the program at their library.  I did the same when I first started thinking about “1000 Books.” I researched what other libraries throughout Wisconsin and the country were doing and contacted several librarians to get more specific information.  (I apologize for not remembering their names!) I quickly discovered that one of the biggest advantages to “1000 Books” is that each of us can tailor it to our needs.  Those needs, of course, are based (usually) on time and money.

As I reply to different queries from other librarians about “1000 Books,” I always warn them (for
lack of a better word) that they need to think of this as a minimum of a five-year commitment.  If we sign up babies (some libraries do, some don’t) then we can assume that it could take the parent or caregiver up to five years to complete the program. In the 16 months since we started our “1000 Books” program we have registered 122 children and of those, 7 have moved away and 6 children have completed the program. Of those six children, four of them are only children and one of them is an “only child” during the day when her older sibling is in school. It took these families only a few months to finish “1000 Books.” We have many other families working towards that goal but it could take some children a year or more to finish the program.  Conceivably, it could take a child five years!  There is no way that I would ever want to tell a five year old, soon to start kindergarten, and his parents that we no longer have a “1000 Books before Kindergarten” program! 

“1000 Books before Kindergarten” is a great program.  I recommend it highly to any library, any size, any shape.  You can adapt it to your situation!  We can never stress the importance of early literacy too much.  However, before you commit, ask yourself this question:  Do we have the time and the money to keep this program going for five years and keep it fresh, exciting, and vital? If the answer is yes, go for it!  If the answer is no, don’t feel bad.  Adapt the program to what you can afford, both time and money wise.  

Luci Bledsoe, Director
Johnson Creek Public Library, Johnson Creek, WI

Images provided by the author

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Play With Your Food

I had these ‘cut-able’ wooden fruit and vegetables on my radar as my three year old granddaughter had just figured out how awful it felt to get stitches in her hand from using the real thing. She wanted to serve herself those yummy little multi-colored peppers so she got them herself and climbed up to the knife block.  Ah yes.

There is such a real feel to these toys. Velcro between pieces gives that satisfying crunch when you cut them with the harmless wooden knives. Brilliant. So when this mini-grant came along I thought it was a winner for me.  Wow! Did it ever go over.  Kids run into the library to get to these.

True, toys aren’t books, but they are a gateway. I put all sorts of food related books around the play area and forced everyone to look at them, but none were checked out, really. What happened was the children were deliriously happy and the parents were free to pick out all the books they wanted without having to chase around yelling for their kids. No one has tired of this play area, and I have boys and girls up to third grade who routinely prepare me meals at a little table with a table cloth and all.  Of course, that brings up lots of dialog and I can always segue into an interesting book or two for them to check out. Never fails.

To assuage my guilt about taking up that much room for toys I look for stories to read out loud and use the pots and pans as props. Then after the story I encourage them to retell it and use the same props. We have had many hilarious times together.  This was a wonderful addition to our library that stirred up lots of early learning activities.

Julia Metcalf, Director, Head Chef, lover of fun in the library and shiver-er of stitches for three-year-olds.
Oxford Public Library, Oxford, WI

Images provided by the author

Monday, December 15, 2014

Library Staff and Early Literacy

"Teaching Early Literacy to Library Staff" blog post
Head over the ALSC Blog for a great post about helping non-youth services library staff understand the whys and hows of early literacy. Written by Katie Salo at the Indian Prairie Public Library in Darien, IL, this post offers ideas that can be used in a similar staff training or even just a hand-out or staff-area interactive display!

Friday, December 12, 2014

"Jawsome" Family Shark Party

In the early part of each year, we host a literacy night. This collaboration involves working with the school librarian and reading specialist along with other interested professionals from our school district.

This winter we held a family shark party on February 4, 2014. This theme idea was shared at a Grassroots meeting by Kelly Kneisler at the Weyauwega Public Library. This is a lesson to pay attention at those idea swaps--you never know what will come in handy!

Here were some of the components:
  • A friend and I acted out the The three little fish and the big bad shark by Ken Geist. We used puppets and a puppet stage.
  • We showed this YouTube video on the library Smartboard : 
  • Then I read aloud the book Shark vs. Train by Chris Barton & Tom Lichtenheld.
  • While having the Smartboard on we showed some of the kids’ digital stories that were on the school website. (The school librarian had alerted me to this possibility!)
  • Crafts included shark “headgear” and sharks made from blue balloons and added features. Also, we made shark masks.  Http:// was my source for these. I just ran off the pattern in color. Kids cut them out and stapled them to headbands.
  • For snack we had cookies that participants could paint with red frosting that looked like blood!
  • At the end of the evening there was a raffle for 5 free books and the shark puppet that was used in the play. The raffle slips were either shark or train die cuts.
  • There were reading stations set up with fiction and non-fiction books (about sharks) for families to read together.

We took pictures of participants sticking their head through a shark cutout. The evening was reinforced when those pictures were posted both at the school and in our library. Because of the large numbers (and our limited space) we rotated three groups through stations. We had extra staff working to handle new library card applications and additional checking out.

Publicity for the event involved a few signs in the library. Primarily, the schools handled this through their channels. That was immensely helpful and effective.

These literacy nights are aimed at elementary school children. What is neat is that younger siblings are usually in tow.  Everyone has a great time in the name of reading. I love that a good, happy, creative time is associated with our wonderful library!

I encourage readers to get to know your school staff and see if they would like to work together on something similar. This has become a part of the pattern of the school year. Folks look forward to see when the night will be and what the theme is.

It is really cool for folks to see that the school district and their public library are concerned about the reading skills of their children. I am also pleased that at least one administrator makes appoint of attending this night. What a positive message of support that action sends!

Elizabeth M. Timmins, Library Director & Programmer
Muehl Public Library, Seymour, WI

Images provided by the author

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Early Literacy Connections to Wisconsin Learning Standards

Check out "Standard of the Week," a new online update from DPI that features ideas for practicing standards in the classroom and at home.  This week's standard makes a direct connection to common public library early literacy programs, services, and connections.

My Wisconsin Standard of the Week
Kindergarten English Language Arts
With prompting and support, retell familiar stories, including key details (CCSS.ELA-Literature.RL.K.2)

Why? Re-telling promotes understanding, develops understanding of cause and effect relationships, and gives children opportunities for making inferences.

How? After reading a story with your child, ask him or her who, what, when, where, why, and/or how questions about the story (Who did the wolf try to trick? What happened after the bear got the honey out of the tree? Why do you think the bees stung the wolf, but they never stung the bear?). Your child may also draw pictures of the character/s or an event from the story.

What? Re-telling can range from identifying and re-telling the beginning, middle, and end parts of a story, to filling in missing information when prompted, or offering original ideas about why something happened in the story the way it did.

Monday, December 8, 2014

“Early Literacy Activity Areas” Early Literacy Webinar Reminder

Pixabay image
Join us for the Growing Wisconsin Readers Fall Webinar Series on Tuesday, December 9, 1:00-2:15pm. Tomorrow’s presentation on “Early Literacy Activity Areas” features the experiences of Wisconsin public librarians who have established and enhanced play areas in their libraries. Tune in for a session that will walk you through the whys and hows of early literacy activity areas.

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, December 5, 2014

Once Upon a Partnership

I would like to tell you a story.

Pixabay image
Once upon a time, our library had strong early literacy partnerships. Times changed. People retired. Major employers left the area. City and school budgets were slashed – and slashed again. Committees fell apart. Partnerships were lost and eventually forgotten.What was once a city with strong early childhood partnerships became a world of silos. Cue the sentimental music … grab the tissues.

I know, it’s a sad story, but I promise you a happy ending. I thought it was important to share this sad story with you because I wanted you to know that we didn’t always have great partner relationships. We let them die out. When we eventually wanted them back – we had to work to rebuild them. 
It took time to convince everyone (including library staff) that partnering (again) was a good idea. After all, why did we need to invest so much time, energy, and effort into building partnerships when we were doing just fine on our own, thank you very much? Because we weren’t able to do everything on our own. Because strong partnerships can and do pay off in big ways. 

Pixabay image
Think of it as library staff standing on the roof yelling information out to the passers-by. The message gets out to a few folks, but not many. Community partners are the folks who hear, believe, and share the message we’re shouting. They climb up onto their own roofs and shout it too. Eventually, you have people all over shouting the same message until all the passers-by hear it. Cool, right?

Currently we’ve reestablished a number of key relationships, and we’re working on building others. So here’s how the Hedberg Public Library and the Janesville School District came together and created our very popular Preschool Pizzeria (see link) and PlayZone. 

We learned how to talk to our partner. Email? Phone calls? Meetings? During the school day? At night? Flexibility, patience, and persistence are essential.
We set shared goals from which we both would benefit.
We made the partnership a priority. We did this by prioritizing meetings and planning in our day-to-day schedule. 
We built trust and dropped the territorial attitudes. We’ve both benefitted from using each other’s Tried and True Techniques.
We figured out the budget (time and money) as partners. Who would purchase the pizzas? Who would print the invitations? Which staff would take reservations? Who would work the event? (Everyone!) 
We keep evolving. The success we’ve shared with Pizzeria has encouraged us to get involved in many other events together. 

Early literacy partnership success!
As you can see from the photos – this is a great event. We’re serving our families, we’re supporting our school district – and they are supporting us. We’re all shouting from the rooftops about the importance of early literacy!

So, if you’re thinking about approaching a potential partner – go for it. You’ll end up with a happy story to share!

Jamie A. Swenson, Children’s Associate
Hedberg Public Library, Janesville, WI

Library photos provided by the author