Wednesday, November 5, 2014

To Tip or Not to Tip

Wondering How to Tip (Pixabay image)
I enjoy eating out, but I sometimes find tipping an intimidating practice. There is such potential for awkwardness. How much should I leave? Where should I leave it? How discrete should I be about leaving it? When I first faced the challenge of working early literacy tips into my programs, I felt the same awkwardness. Should I give a tip at the beginning, or the end? Should I have a weekly handout to send home with families? How could I integrate a tip into my story time in a way that wouldn’t break the flow, or be seen as patronizing?

To my rescue came Saroj Ghoting and some amazing online courses offered through the Library of Virginia. These classes provided a practical review of ECRR as well as direct instruction in how to give early literacy tips in story time. We practiced writing and delivering three types of asides (or tips): Explain Aside, Example Aside and Empower Aside. As I went through this learning process, I realized that it was time to rethink my story time role.

Information This Way (Pixabay image)
I chose to work in libraries because I love working with people, especially children, and because I believe in the power of the written word. I am also completely enamored, rather idealistically I suppose, with the idea of the library as a magical place where people can search for truth and learn to think critically. In this world, I imagine myself as an arrow on a signpost offering non-intrusive directional advice to intrepid wanderers. I take my non-judgmental, back-seat-to-their-personal exploration role very seriously. When confronted with the prospect of delivering direct early literacy instruction to parents, I felt I was morphing into a huge, blinking, neon sign, and I wasn’t sure that was a good change.  

As I incorporate the three types of asides into my fall program planning, I’ve begun to realize that
Playing is Part of Early Literacy (Pixabay Image)
there is a middle ground between subtle signpost and neon sign. While parents who come to story time rarely ask directly about early literacy, their presence indicates an interest in their children having positive experiences with books and libraries. In this way, their attendance is almost an unspoken early literacy reference question. When I take a few moments to explain what we are learning through music, stories and play, I am not only providing good customer service, but I am empowering caregivers to recreate these experiences at home.


Tipping can be awkward, but it can also be an act of extraordinary kindness.  I think it might be worth risking the awkward for the possibility of positive change. I am excited to see how using the asides in the manner suggested by Saroj Ghoting changes my fall programming. 

Ann Cooksey, Preschool Specialist Librarian
Appleton PublicLibrary, Appleton, WI