Thursday, January 15, 2015

Play & Learn Spots in a Small Library

Kids of all ages enjoy a Play & Learn spot
Last fall I embarked on a goal to enhance the early literacy area at my library. My vision to create several interactive experiences that encourage early literacy skill-building through reading, writing, singing, talking, and playing has, for the most part, become a reality. I wanted the activities to fit in our small space; change seasonally; have durability; be eye-catching, safe, and cost-effective; and have flexibility to be used with a range of ages. At the same time, I wanted to coach caregivers. I included signage on how to use the activities to promote early literacy with their children. I also bought prime real estate in the picture book section and created “Caregiver Cove,” a resource area where I can display pertinent information for caregivers such as storytime and 1,000 Books Before Kindergarten flyers, Growing Wisconsin Readers brochures, the YSS Early Literacy Calendar, and lists of recommended titles.

Color and word matching board
My library board gladly granted me $1,000 to get the early literacy area up and running. I used the fall and early winter months to make plans, comb Pinterest for ideas, and buy materials. I combined the grand opening with a toddler dance party in February.

I knew the only way my Play & Learn Spots were going to work for the long haul was to be organized and plan in advance for the year. I decided to use the following categories for my
A new cast of puppets each month
activities: Print Awareness, Print Motivation, Phonological Awareness, Letter Knowledge, Vocabulary, and Narrative Skills. Then I placed pins from my Pinterest board and other activities I’d researched into one of those early literacy categories. From there I assigned each activity to a season, sometimes further breaking it down by month (i.e. a different set of puppets in the puppet theater each month). Now all I have to do in preparation for each season is flip through my trusty, old-school notebook to see what is coming up. This saves me the anxiety of having to create activities on the fly and helps me keep the Play & Learn Spot fresh. It was a large amount of work to get started but well worth it.

User response activity
At any given time I have about seven different activities scattered throughout the children’s area. I use any wall and shelf space I can find. I found a patron to build me a custom tabletop for our Duplo table so now I can rotate its use with other activities such as a puppet theater. These activities will always be a work in progress as I discover which ones work and which need tweaking. For example, I’m learning that the pocket chart activities are not going over well, so I am considering switching that out for a large flannel board.

So far the Play & Learn Spots have been a success. Caregivers, kids, and my director enjoy the new
You can't go wrong with Chrysanthemum
space. The staff has noticed that families spend more time in the children’s area on average than before the early literacy area. Thus, overall I am pleased with how this project turned out and look forward to improving it over the course of time.

Amy Larson, Youth Services Assistant Librarian
Sauk City Public Library, Sauk City, WI

Photos provided by the author