Thursday, October 2, 2014

Passive Programs: Leading the Way

Lead the Way for Your Patrons (Pixabay Image)
When you hear the phrase “passive programs” do you panic?  How can you possibly engage people in the library if you are not leading them through the steps?  The answer is simple: you are leading.  Just like the storytime and other programs, library staff plan and direct this type of library use.  We simply utilize our writing skills a little more.  Your plan might suggest conversation starters for parents and children, and at the same time provide an opportunity for you to jump in and talk about the tie between that scavenger hunt and this week’s storytime theme.

You probably already do many things to encourage early literacy skills without specifically naming them “passive programs”.  Some of these programs, such as 1,000 Books Before Kindergarten, are ongoing.  I like to think of that one as similar to storytime.  It’s always around and a focus of staff.  Other times you might have activities for families that you swap out consistently. 

Is your whole building being used as a pre-literacy tool?
Restroom Rhymes
Learning should happen where?  Following ideas from the Hennepin County libraries in Minnesota, we added Restroom Rhymes 2013.  Each sign has a children’s song or nursery rhyme and an early literacy tip.  We laminate them so they are easy to sanitize and use again.  This idea makes more sense than you think.  People of all ages use that space.  Parents can read the rhymes as they diaper baby; grandparents can pick up a literacy tip to use next time they see their cherubs.  Other community members are simply reminded of services in the library they would otherwise miss.
Do you have access to a die-cut machine?  With that and a skinny space on the wall, you can give kids an opportunity to check their height.  Stack apples, hearts or any shape one on top of another.  Let families practice counting skills by seeing how many … tall each child is.  Take it even further with colors and patterns.  Alternate red and green apples and suggest parents ask kids how many of the apples in their height are green.
At the Growing Wisconsin Readers Symposium in March, someone suggested using items in the display case for an I Spy game.  During September, we are featuring a pirate display near the children’s room.  Since it is filled with many tiny items, the search is intense. 

1,000 Books But How Many Ducks?

How many things can we teach with ten little ducks?  

  •     Pre-math: parents can ask their child how many ducks they have left to reach their goal.
  •     Language skills: The bright poster and stickering activity spark conversation between child and caregiver.
  •    Color recognition and matching: Each achievement level features a coordinated duck and stickers.
  •   Print awareness: Progression moves from left to right, just like words on a page.
  • Relevant math: It’s fun to count the number of stickers on each duck.  Compare the values to determine values like more and less.
  •    Community:  Lodi is famous as the home of “Susie the duck” and hosts an annual festival.

Create a STEM corner
STEM Corner Conversation Starters
Some libraries do this up big.  Marshall Public Library in SCLS is one of those, and provided the inspiration for our little addition this year. Every two weeks, during the “Fizz, Boom, READ!” theme, we had a new exploration process available near the children’s computers.  We purchased a microscope at the local resale shop for $10, and also purchased a large magnifying glass, plant specimens in acrylic, and a set of four “life cycle” cards, one of which shows a butterfly’s stages of life.  Each card is circular, and can be spun to highlight a specific stage. Staff created posters to encourage conversation between children and adults.  Posters suggested the use of a hypothesis and predictions.  We conveniently placed our STEM space between the iPad and AWE station.  It provides a great way to get low tech science noticed by kids who might otherwise miss the fun.

Even if your SLP is already crazy, you can do these little things
Measuring Volume (Pixabay Image)
Did you know you can count each visit to drop off summer reading as a passive use of the library?  The kids do all the work without direct assistance from library staff, and then report back.  Each family makes a special trip to the library to tell staff about their participation at home.  Here in Lodi, we included those numbers as a part of the spreadsheet for tallying total reading. This year, our staff competed against the kids for total reading hours.  Of course, the 200 kids completely trounced the five adult staff members.  The fun part was the chart we used with two beakers drawn and filled in with a stamp for every hour of reading.  With a little lesson in the geometric principle of volume, we used a smaller beaker with bigger stamps for the staff so that the numbers still looked close. Many people of all ages were drawn to the graphic. We also do a bingo card each summer.  Each time a child completes ten activities on the card, they get a small prize, and we record their participation as a drop-in.  On their own, those kids did things like writing a thank you note to a summer sponsor and reading outside for fifteen minutes.   Library staff did the legwork of creating fun and educational activities for them, but their efforts were not supervised by our staff.

Kristine Millard, Co-director and Youth Services Librarian
Lodi Public Library, Lodi, WI