Guest post by Tami Feuerstein
Early Childhood Literacy Consultant
“Every Hero Has a Story” and last fall I was able to participate in the Growing Wisconsin Readers Online Early Literacy Coursework allowing me to discover a real super hero in the early literacy world, Saroj Ghoting. Saroj was a children’s librarian for more than 35 years and is now an early childhood literacy consultant and co-author of resource books for early literacy story times. She conducted this online training, rich with inspiring ideas, to help libraries enhance their own early literacy story times, and she showed the importance of communicating early literacy development to caregivers.
The coursework was divided into two sessions, with the first called Early Literacy and Books: Making the Connection. This was mainly connecting the five components of early literacy; phonological awareness, print conventions and awareness, letter knowledge, vocabulary, and background knowledge, to the five practices in Every Child Ready to Read (ECRR2). These practices are singing, reading, talking, playing, and writing. The focus was to show the connection between these practices and how they support early literacy and later reading.
|Llama Llama Red Pajama,|
a text used during the course.
Saroj guided course participants in how to make these connections and how critical it is to help adults understand how these activities affect their children’s early literacy development. Babies are born learning and what they learn is up to the caring adults in their lives. Our training assignments included readings, online presentations, and reviewing developmental milestones and brain development in infants and young children. One assignment that I found very rewarding was how to take one book and use it to focus separately on each of the five early literacy components for a story time. Activities were required for the age group of 2-3 year olds, as well as 4-5 year olds. It was enlightening to see how one book could be used in many different ways to model for adults. In isolating the early literacy skill with supporting activities adults are not overwhelmed, and are more apt to do them at home.
The connections made between the class participants in the online forum postings were also valuable. Participants represented libraries from all areas of Wisconsin with a variety of responsibilities in each library setting. It was wonderful to share ideas on many different levels and topics.
The second session of the training was held in the winter and called Early Literacy Enhanced Story Times: Adults as Partners in Developing Language and Literacy. This class was about formally incorporating early literacy asides, or parent tips, into story times. These asides should be short and focused on one early literacy component, and are intentionally directed at adults to explain how they can help their children develop the foundation for later reading. We learned about the three different kinds of asides: Explain, Example, and Empower. These asides are made more effective by providing a research-based reason an activity in story time, or a practice such as singing, reading, playing, writing, or talking, supports an early literacy component. This part of the training was rich in resources, suggestions, and information in planning and carrying out enhanced story times.
|Early Literacy Begins With You|
(Library of Virginia)
The rewards of witnessing the “aha” moments when applying these asides in my story times are inspiring. To see a parent’s relief as they realize a baby’s natural mouthing or batting at the pages of a board book is okay, and supports the early literacy component of Print Conventions and Awareness is priceless. Or the connection a parent makes as they hear that pointing out shapes in books as they read supports the early literacy skill of Letter Knowledge, as their child is distinguishing how the shapes are alike and different. It is through these valuable connections in our early literacy enhanced story times that we can communicate to parents that laying a foundation for later reading is a process that takes years of nurturing.
Saroj Ghoting is an early literacy super hero in my opinion, and this training provided a spark to the participants involved to build on the enthusiasm of getting young children ready to read.
Tami Feuerstein, Early Literacy Specialist
Lester Public Library, Two Rivers, Wisconsin