Big Launch 2!!

During our planning for 1000 Books Before Kindergarten, we also challenged ourselves to develop Play Learn Read early literacy areas similar to what Hennepin County (MN) libraries did.  The idea is to create areas in the library that are print rich and use play to help encourage parents and children to discover the fun of literacy.

Our three early childhood specialists and storytime gurus on the Children's Department team took up the gauntlet thrown and began planning what they would develop in late summer of 2010. After a team meeting to look at what we could afford, they plunged ahead. They developed and prepared many activities including: a tabletop puppet theater for dramatic play; story boards to encourage kids to tell the story; and examples of print that show parents that their preschooler is already a reader. Also on tap is a growth chart and a "Letters in my Name" activity as well - even the bathrooms contain a color matching activity). The plan is for these activities to change often. We also decided to house the Early Childhood Resources (Parent/Teacher)collection in this area as well as a display of great picture books for families to share.

A logo was developed based on 1000 Books and the team developed identifying signs and bright big letters for the area.  Now when families enter the Children's area, they are greeted by an inviting area that encourages reading, quiet play and discovery.  We have simple encouraging statements and highlight the six pre-literacy skills in easy to understand language:
  • I Like Books - Have fun reading together!
  • I See Words -Share letters and words
  • I Hear Words - Help children hear the sounds of words and letters
  • I Know Letters - Help children identify letters and numbers
  • I Know Words - Share books and stories to increase vocabulary
  • I Can Tell a Story- Help children understand story structure

We rolled out the area at the same time that we launched 1000 Books B4K. We knew these were natural supports for each other.  For the past week, we have watched parents interact with their kids and use all the early literacy center areas.  It makes us feel really great to have encouraged a perfect use of our library and its spaces!


Whew! Launched!

This week saw the launch of two major initiatives in our Children's area: 1000 Books Before Kindergarten Club and the debut of our new Play Learn Read literacy centers. It was a crazy few months and frantic last few weeks pulling it all together but it looks like it will be worth the effort. This post is about the first initiative.

The 1000 Books Club is based on an idea that we had seen other libraries do (including at my former job). The program encourage parents of 1-5 year olds to read a wide range of books to their child to help them get a jumpstart on learning and school . We chose a 1 year old start because we wanted the little ones old enough to appreciate the fun of receiving stickers and little incentives. And we designed it to encourage frequent trips to the library to encourage families to use us often.

We used a flower/seed/rainbow theme to build the program on. The logo we are using is above...I designed it with the help of Windows clip art and a helpful techy staffer. Families are given a folder with a simple welcome letter (which includes the "how-to") and their first colored sheet of 100 lines to fill in as books are read.  Multiple readings of the same book each count; stapling date due slips to the sheet counts; putting hatch marks down for books read at a storytime or in daycare count too!  We want the process easy!

Each time a filled-in sheet is returned, the child receives a congratulatory sticker (Wow! 100 Books Read!), and their next sheet to record books in a new bright rainbow color.  And they get to put a big dot, whose color corresponds to the completed page, on one of the white flowers on our giant flower garden mural.  The more kids that get involved and the more they read, the more colorful the garden becomes!

We also have a few extra incentives to give out to the kids and parents along the way: lanyards; window clings and refrigerator magnet date due slip holders for the parents and cute nursery rhyme finger puppets and a book to keep for the kids.  When we first started planning the program, our focus group, made up of representatives from the schools, daycares, our Family Resource Center and families, all stressed that the grown-ups deserved some rewards for all they do to bring in their kids and read to them too.

We created a simple database (because we have three locations we are doing the program at) to keep track of levels achieved by each participant.  But an excel spreadsheet worked as well at my former library.

We also found that a project like this, which is completely funded by donations, is easy to raise money for. We received a memorial gift, a donation from our Kiwanis Club Foundation and raised quite a bit more from a fundraising letter. We had the support of the schools, the daycares, our local media and families themselves as we prepared for the big launch.  They helped us spread the word about the club. We wanted to keep the costs down so that we could afford to run the club over many years - we tell the parents that they have plenty of time to complete the goal and not to rush.

We kicked it all off a few days ago with a giant after-hours concert on a Friday night with noted children's singer Tom Pease.  Having the families in after we were closed made it into a special event. And it gave us ideas on how we can do more special evenings like this for club members. After three days we have over 100 readers participating.  Who knows how many more readers we can grow?

To find samples of our materials, check out our Winding Rivers Library System Youth website and scroll down towards the bottom of the page!

Next post: Our Play Learn Read Literacy Centers