Wednesday, July 1, 2015

A Gourmet Meal of Early Literacy Information!

Guest post by Linda DeCramer

Words cannot convey the import and impact of the two online courses I took as part of the Growing Wisconsin Readers initiative - EarlyLiteracy and Books, and Early Literacy Enhanced Storytimes. The instructor, Saroj Ghoting is wonderful and the course content was absolutely transformative in terms of how I approach storytime planning and share early literacy information with caregivers!

A gourmet meal (Pixabay)
Prior to the courses, I was aware of the 5 practices – read, write, sing, play, talk – used to reinforce early literacy components. But, it was as if I had “snacked” on tidbits of info, and did not purposefully incorporate it within the storytime context. Post courses, it’s as if I partook of a carefully crafted, 5 course meal designed to optimally integrate knowledge of child development and early literacy research with the early literacy components AND the 5 practices.

I feel newly empowered to make a difference! I am infinitely more confident in choosing content for my programs, and sharing early literacy info with caregivers. This is truly a gift to be shared and partaken of collectively. 

Three course highlights:

1. The final goal of the combined courses is to train the presenter in offering early literacy information via “asides” during storytime. I’ve notice that adults in attendance are in turn empowered and excited about the importance of their role as EARLY LITERACY NURTURER! Many parents attending storytime have opted to focus on raising their children over money or career. By incorporating early literacy information and reinforcing best practices, storytime is now a learning, growing experience for adult, as well as child, and serves to affirm and legitimize their choice and role.

2. Conversation and camaraderie among attendees: Sometimes, an “aside” will spark a caregiver to share with the group an exciting moment or development, which illustrates the concept, with their child. A retired educator, who brings her grandsons, occasionally has additional info or knowledge, from her years as a teacher, to share. Despite days filled with very little adult conversation, tears, diapers, messes and melt downs, sharing in this way helps everyone to believe that what they are doing is important!

A Storywalk discussion (author's image)
3. Children in motion can listen very well to a story. One of the video clips viewed as part of the Early Literacy and Books course involved a caregiver reading to a child engrossed in play. It appeared the child barely noticed the reader. At intervals, the adult stopped to ask a question about the book. The seemingly unattentive child would immediately answer correctly! Often baby storytime is a bit chaotic and caregivers express concern for their active child who will just not sit for a book, here, there or anywhere. In the past I would have offered tips and ideas for maximizing the child’s time and attention to a book or storytime. While this is still a worthy goal, now I can assure them that activity and listening are not mutually exclusive!

Written by:
Linda DeCramer, Children’s Librarian

Monday, June 29, 2015

Waukesha County Federated Library System Partners with UWM to Create "1000 Books" App

The article below was originally published on Today@UWM on June 12, 2015 by Kathy Quirk, featuring a photograph by Troye Fox. The article was shared by Angela Meyers, the Coordinator of Youth and Special Needs Services at Waukesha County Federated Library System.

UWM creates free app to help families and libraries encourage children to read

Natasha Heinlein, of Muskego, uses the 1000 Books Before Kindergarten app developed at UWM to track books read to her son, Eli.
Natasha Heinlein, of Muskego, uses the 1000 Books Before Kindergarten app developed at UWM to track books read to her son, Eli. (UWM Photo/Troye Fox)
Read the “Poky Little Puppy” to your toddler 58 times?
Now there’s an app to track that.
The University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and Waukesha County public libraries collaborated on a free app for parents to track books read to their children. The app supports the popular “1000 Books Before Kindergarten” program offered by libraries nationwide.
The goal is to encourage parents and grandparents to read to children, fostering literacy later on. (See for more information.)
Until now, parents have had to log the books read to their children with pen and paper, turning in their reports to the libraries where children earn rewards, said Angela Meyers, coordinator of youth and special needs services for the Waukesha County Federated Library System. She thought the process could be simpler.
“Keeping track of the folder with the reading logs was sometimes a hassle, so we wanted to take a paper model and make it digital,” Meyers said.
The library didn’t have the money or staff to develop a smartphone app, so Meyers, who earned her master’s degree at UWM, turned to the university’s App Brewery, which helps students fine tune their skills by working with real-life clients from nonprofits. While the School of Information Studies sponsors the brewery, participating students come from a variety of academic programs that prepare them for careers in information studies and technology, graphic design and computer sciences.
“We would not have been able to do this without the help from UWM and the App Brewery,” Meyers said.
The 1000 Books Before Kindergarten app already has 316 users and 412 children after a “soft launch” this spring, Meyers said. While the app is set up to work with the Waukesha County libraries’ program, families in other areas can use it.
“We’ve had downloads from Canada and Australia,” Meyers said. “When it was mentioned on the ALA (American Library Association’s) Facebook site, it got 60 ‘likes’ the first night.”
The app is available for both iPhones and Androids.
“It’s awesome,” said Natasha Heinlein, of Muskego, who’s been using the app as she reads to her 3-year-old son, Eli, and 18-month-old daughter, Evy. “I love it, and it’s really easy to use. It’s a much more convenient than remembering to write down every book.”
The app allows librarians to catch families up by transferring books from the paper log if they have children like Eli, who has already read more than 300 books with his mom. His favorites include “I Love You Stinky Face,” “Wacky Wednesday,” “Fraidy Zoo,” and anything about dinosaurs.
“I like to read to him, and I know he’s learning a lot,” Heinlein said. “Sometimes we just enjoy laughing together about silly stories.”
The app allows parents to set up profiles for each of their children, App Brewery Manager Dustin Hahn said. Grandparents, aunts, babysitters, siblings and others who read to a child also can sign into the child’s profile from their smartphones and log books. Entering a book can be as easy as scanning the barcode on it.
The Waukesha County libraries’ app is one of two including “1000 Books” in its name. Meyers said the advantage of the app developed at UWM is that it incorporates feedback from users and is supported by the library system.
“Our library patrons can go into the library to have a conversation about the 1000 Books program and talk to their librarian about the app, and get incentives along the way,” she said. “I can’t think of one other app where you can actually walk in or call someone to give feedback. I think that’s kind of neat.”

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Babies Need Words Every Day: Talk, Read, Sing, Play

The following information comes from the Association of Library Services to Children (ALSC).

By the time children from low-income families reach the age of four, they will have heard thirty million fewer words than their more advantaged peers. Babies Need Words Every Day: Talk, Read, Sing, Play is a national, public awareness initiative created to help bridge the Thirty Million Word Gap. Developed by the Association of Library Service to Children (ALSC) this campaign has begun with a series of accessible, instructive posters to help inform parents and primary caregivers about the vital importance of talking with their babies.
Babies Need Words Every Day posters
Babies Need Words Every Day posters are available to download
Featuring artwork by children’s illustrator Il Sung Na and filled with rhymes, songs, and other playful ideas for sharing words with babies, these posers are available as free downloads and are designed to be place above changing tables in libraries and other public buildings. As part of the campaign, ALSC also offers book lists that spotlight the best titles to encourage early learning concepts, as well as a ready-to-use tool kit for inviting local media and other community partners to join in the effort to bridge the 30 Million Word Gap.

Babies Need Words Every Day booklist brochure
is available to download
The Babies Need Words Every Day: Talk, Read, Sing, Play campaign is just one more way that libraries offer essential support for lifelong learning to the diverse families in their communities. For more information about the campaign and additional resources to promote early childhood development, visit

Babies Need Words Every Day project overview
Babies Need Words Every Day booklist
Babies Need Words Every Day webpage

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Meaningful Early Literacy Training Inspires Programming and Partnerships at a Small Library

Guest post by Rozanne Traczek

Fairchild, WI mapTo begin, I sincerely want to thank all those responsible for allowing me to take the Online Early Literacy Coursework with Saroj Ghoting offered through the Growing Wisconsin Readers initiative.  I am Rozanne Traczek, the director of the Fairchild Public Library, one of the few joint libraries in the state of Wisconsin. We are a small library servicing the Village and Town of Fairchild, the Town of Cleveland, and patrons from neighboring Jackson and Clark Counties.  My background in coming into the director position was in elementary education, so I was especially interested in beginning more programming for children at our library. This has been done in partnership with the Osseo-Fairchild School District and the local Homeschoolers’ Association.  A director of a small town library often wears many hats, and in this case, I serve in all capacities as youth director initiating many of the opportunities for children. However, in the area early literacy programming, nothing had yet been developed by us, primarily because I hadn’t worked much with children of this age before. 

Through taking the two courses in early literacy, I learned much about working with preschoolers, including…
  • selection of appropriate books
  • various developmental stages of learning for babies through age 6
  • brain research in these areas
  • techniques and strategies to help children of these ages to lead them to be good readers in the future
  • tips and guides for helping parents work with their children,
  • how to do literacy sessions with children and planning programs for them at the public library
… to mention just a few.

Toddler with books
Toddler with books (Pixabay)
During the coursework, I used what I had learned with little ones, especially children ages 3-5 when they came in with their parents to the library. I became engaged with their children while their parents observed.  With parents, I gave tips on building literacy with their children at home.  It was a two-way learning path for me by trying out what I learned in the classes and helping parents with early literacy guidance.

The courses helped me plan for a preschool story activity in the summer enrichment program this year. I was able to share and use much of what I learned with my large multi-age homeschool group that we now host once a week for the summer.  My intentions are for the upcoming fall season to contact the Fairchild Elementary Headstart Program and provide early literacy activities at the Fairchild Public Library with the Headstart group coming to the library as well as me doing an outreach program to them.

Recently, we received word that our library, along with three other libraries in Eau Claire County, will be starting a program in October 2015 called Playpals through the Family Resource Center. United Way approved a grant for this program to come out to the rural area.  The director of the Family Resource Center is planning to hire a preschool teacher for the program, and I will assist her in gathering preschoolers and parents to come for this program.  I have started to encourage this with many in the immediate area.  We will be proud to host this program, and I have discussed with the Family Resource Center director about the Online Early Literacy Coursework with Saroj Ghoting and what I learned.  I am planning to assist with this program, too, thus encouraging and building pre-literacy programming through our public library.
Alphabet garland
Alphabetic awareness is a pre-literacy skill (Pixabay)

The Fairchild Public Library plans to do more in the area of pre-literacy, and I know that the coursework helped me in this area to reach out more for the benefit of future reading of our children.  Thank you once again for what I have learned and what we feel confident about doing at our small town library.

Written by:
Rozanne Traczek, Director

Monday, June 22, 2015

New Media/Early Literacy Evening in Monroe, WI

Guest post by Holly Storck-Post

In March, I attended the Growing Wisconsin Readers New Media Training that many people have written about on this blog. At about the same time, I started getting families asking for more evening storytimes, and I wanted to encourage to use more apps in our programs.

storytime materials
Storytime materials (author's image)

Early this year I held an early literacy open house program, and I decided that a similar format that would work best would be to add new media to my early literacy stations and offer families the chance to look at early literacy and new media at the same time.

I planned a mini storytime with a book app, a traditional book, a song, a jumping activity, and a demo of four different apps. I ended up cutting out the activity and shortening the book since I had a small audience, but it still worked!
iPad demonstration
iPad demonstration (author's image)
As we went through the apps, I alternated between addressing the kids and the grownups, and gave everyone a chance to play together and ask questions about the apps. I also made sure to point out the extension activities we did and suggest additional activities.
Then, I let them loose on my 6 stations: one for each early literacy practice and a couple tables of ipads, each with a different app available to play with, including the ones that I had demo’d.
New media and early literacy stations
New media and early literacy stations (author's image)
I also made available our joint media engagement handout, which suggests ways to select and use apps with kids and recommends a few top apps, as well as a small handout listing the apps we used and the book we read that day.
Ok, time for full disclosure: I only had one family and one bored 4th grader show up, so I was a little disappointed about that.
BUT. BUT. It was GREAT. The family came on the recommendation of their daycare provider, and were super into learning about how to use apps with their kids and what they could do together over the summer to get ready for preschool and really listened and did pretty much everything I could have asked for. So basically, I was happy with how it went, and I’m hoping that this is something I can continue to grow.

Written by:

Holly Storck-Post, Youth Services Coordinator
Monroe Public Library, Monroe WI

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Starting Baby and Me Storytime at the Rusk County Community Library

Baby and book
Baby and book (Pixabay)
Guest post by Valerie Spooner, participant in the Growing Wisconsin Readers Early Literacy Community Development Course

In January we started offering Baby and Me Storytime for children ages 0-2 and a caregiver. We welcome older siblings and have some activities set up for them in the same room, as well as someone to supervise so the caregiver can focus on the baby/toddler. We decided to have it twice per month, on the first and third Wednesday of the month.

Baby and Me Storytime Space
Baby and Me Storytime Space
(author's image)
I use a theme to help me guide my planning, but it’s not necessary. I find that a theme helps me focus while planning. I start with the same two opening songs and use the same closing song every week. I also borrow enough copies of the featured board book so every child has a book to hold while we read it. 

Here’s the general outline for what we do: 
  1. Introductions
  2. Opening song
  3. Opening wiggle
  4. Board Book
  5. Literacy tip
  6. Bounce/Wiggle/ or Finger play
  7. Song
  8. Literacy Tip
  9. A second story. It might be an interactive flannel board, a book that I can sing/read while the children use ribbons, scarves, or shakers, or a variety of similar books or books by the same author that I put in the middle and let the children choose.
  10. Bounce/Wiggle/ or Finger play
  11. Song
  12. Literacy tip
  13. Closing song

It looks like a lot, but goes rather quickly. Even with introductions and chatting at the beginning it takes less than 30 minutes. Most of the children who attend are able to stay with the circle for the entire time, but I always make it clear at the beginning that the children are allowed to go to the play activities when they’ve had enough. 

Mini ball pit
Mini ball pit (author's image)
We almost always repeat the songs, finger plays, and bounces two or three times. Many of them are very short. After storytime we have 15-30 minutes of free play. The caregivers really seem to enjoy the free play time as it gives them a chance to chat with each other. I also use this time to ask the caregivers if there’s anything they want me to cover at the next storytime or share ideas for how they can adapt our play activities to items available at their homes.

We already had some of the toys and materials I’ve used, but I was also able to purchase some new things with a grant from WECCP Western Region

Mini sand box
Mini sand box (author's image)
The most popular item to play with is the mini sand box. I purchased some large tubs and 25 pounds of play sand using the grant money, and we’ve used plastic cups, large soft plastic animals, and little people toys in the sand. I place a large tablecloth underneath the tub and tape it to the floor, which really cuts down on the mess. 

Another popular play area is the foam blocks. I chose foam because they are soft and don’t hurt when they are inevitably thrown or dropped. They are also less noisy and less expensive than wooden blocks.

Foam blocks (author's image)
Feedback has been overwhelmingly positive. I know it can be stressful to start a new program (it certainly was for me!) but it’s been a joy to see the children learn and grow. I will have at least one baby/toddler station each week during the Summer Library Program, and look forward to starting up Baby and Me Storytime again in the fall.   

Written by:
Valerie Spooner Youth Services Librarian

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

CLEL StoryBlocks Adds 6 New Videos

StoryBlocks screenshot
Colorado Libraries for Early Literacy (CLEL) recently posted 6 new StoryBlocks videos, including videos in 3 new languages (Arabic, Vietnamese and French)! Check ‘em out: 

Storyblocks is a collection of 52 short videos, produced in partnership with Rocky Mountain PBS, that demonstrate rhymes and songs appropriate for early childhood to parents, caregivers, librarians, and other ECE educators. Each video comes with ECRR-based early literacy tips. There are now videos in English, Spanish, Vietnamese, French and Arabic! Visitors can search the videos by age group (babies, toddlers, preschoolers), activity type (rhymes, songs), and language.