Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Oh Baby!

Caregivers, older siblings, and babies engage in Babygarten
The Lester Public Library in Two Rivers, Wisconsin offers a variety of early literacy programming, beginning with a 6-week Babygarten program for children birth to 18 months.  This lap sit program uses seasonal themes that include songs, finger plays, rhymes and movement activities.  Each program concludes with a 30-minute play time where participants are given the opportunity to make simple, developmentally appropriate toys or a fun project for the baby book. 

Next is 1st Step, a program for children ages 18 months to 3 years. This fast-paced program includes
Toddlers on the move at the 1st Step program
songs, rhymes and movement activities that work on number, letter, shape and color recognition.  Parent participation is strongly encouraged throughout the program – in fact, there are no chairs in the room as there is too much dancing and moving involved. Each program concludes with a 30 minute play time where participants can interact with each other and the facilitator.

Jump Start is the third stage of the library's early literacy program
Graduates of 1st Step then move on to Jump Start, a 6-week literacy program for children ages 3 to 5 years.  Based on the premise that children the 6 weeks learn best through repetition, each Jump Start session chooses one book that is presented in different ways each week. This repetition enables experiences to develop and strengthens a variety of early literacy skills. Participants retell the story through flannel boards, songs, puppets and dramatic play.  Process-oriented art projects are often included throughout.

Staff members who facilitate these programs are encouraged to read blogs, articles and other studies on current trends in early literacy so tips can be shared with families who participate.  Questions from parents about when they should begin reading with their child are often asked.  Everywhere and anywhere possible is the answer!  Staff model behaviors that demonstrate the idea that anytime can be a learning experience, whether it’s reading the cereal box at breakfast or the soap bottles in the bath.  When out in the community, staff is always advocating for the programs and parents also help spread the word.

So far we have had nothing but positive feedback from participants.  One mother, amazed at how much her daughter was learning from the program including recognizing the letters in her name as well as the letters in her family’s names, shared this anecdote, “One night I heard a commotion in my daughter’s bedroom well after bedtime. I heard her counting to 10 while jumping on the bed and yelling back down to 1. (an activity from 1st Step-except for the jumping on the bed part) When she was done counting she lay down and went to sleep.  The next morning I asked her if she knew how to count and she said, “Of course I do. Didn’t you hear me last night?” LOL!

Toni Pierce, Youth Services Associate
Lester Public Library, Two Rivers, WI

Photos provided by the author