First Time Attendee to the Association for Library Service to Children National Institute Conference

By Suzanne Martin
2014 ALSC National Institute
2014 ALSC National Institute

This was my first time attending the National Institute with the Association for Library Service to Children (ALSC), and I knew by the itinerary of presenters and topics it would be valuable time spent for myself, my library, and my community.

What I wasn’t expecting were the connections I made with presenters and other youth service librarians and workers throughout the United States.  The quality of the people I met, and their desire for other communities to succeed in proven and tested ideas and programs was inspiring.  Some of the many takeaways I received willhelp me on improving programs my library already has, implementing programs we hope to do, and bringing back new ideas for library services and programs.

In “Sing, Talk, Write, and Play with Math and Science” presented by Saroj Ghoting and Pamela Martin-Diaz, I learned how easy it is to incorporate two of the STEM concepts, science and math, into my existing storytime structure.  By adding even one non-fiction book and refocusing fingerplays and flannel boards, STEM concepts can be brought into any storytime. The emphasis of this workshop was showing library staff how important it is to encourage parents and caregivers to use math and science in their everyday activities and how it is something they are already doing.  By modeling and presenting ideas I can encourage them to look for opportunities in their home environment to build on these concepts.  One of the easiest examples we explored was asking the open ended question of “What if…?” This teaches children to observe and problem solve, which is a pre-kindergarten skill that will help ready them for school. And who knew that “Pat-a-Cake, Pat-a-Cake” could help a child with measurement concepts and spatial relations, or that a favorite storytime book, “Pete the Cat” by Eric Litwin, could help explore time and sequence and geometry? You can ensure the success of these techniques by covering the three “E’s”: 1) Explanation of the concept used in the storytime 2) an Example of the skill and 3) Empowering the child and the caregiver to use it outside the library in each storytime.

Speaking of outside of the library, this presentation went on to give a number of creative ideas about how to reach out into your community and involve local businesses to partner with the library. An example of this is a BINGO game that gets kids to go into local businesses and look for a display that reflects the business (ie: patterned socks hanging in a yarn shop), which will teach a literacy skill and just makes for a fun family activity. There was information on a “Book Walk” through your library neighborhood that would have children and their families reading a story, one page at a time, placed throughout a simple walk around the area. My personal favorite, and one of the new programs I would love to get in my city, is the “Every day, Everywhere” program. It places literacy tips on local buses, such as “Play Here” with the example of “I Spy” given and how to play the game with your child – plus, of course, information about your library.

In “Inspired Collaboration: Early Childhood Partnerships”, the importance of using partnerships to get the “Every Child Ready to Read” skills embedded in the community, through existing programs, for the benefit of cost, resources, time and efficiency was presented.  Getting community partners and leaders to realize the connection between poverty and illiteracy can increase interest, involvement and funding in your program’s objectives. The idea is to help other organizations succeed in their goals, while they help you with yours, by cross-training them to promote school readiness skills as they are delivering their services in the community.  One example was using home child welfare workers to hand out books and toys with information on how to use the materials to teach literacy skills.  Another successful program that I feel we can use in our next Every Child Ready to Read workshop, was an “Early Literacy Breakfast” at the library.  Educators are brought in and you showcase what the library has, does, and can do for their schools.  A day of appreciation, food and training goes a long way in building a relationship that will ultimately benefit teachers, schools, children and libraries.  One of the best examples given of helping others succeed while they help you was the use of a grant to train residents in a low income housing area.  Mothers were trained in basic Every Child to Read skills and given information about the importance of early literacy skills. The participants were then paid to go out and share that information with their neighbors; the people they know and have already built a relationship with.

I was very excited when I saw the “Beyond Sensory Storytime: Expanding Library Services to Children with Special Needs” program that was going to be offered at the Institute.  This is one of the new programs I am hoping to start/rekindle in our library.  Renee Grassi from the Glencoe Public Library has a sincere passion for offering services to children with special needs and conveyed the message in an inspiring and accessible way.   Ideas on a “people first” language were shared, putting the person ahead of their disability, the top four “wants and needs” that were disclosed in a national survey to people with a disabilities, and programming ideas from pre-k to adults are some of the topics discussed. The following concepts surrounding how to put together a sensory/adapted storytime are “takeaway” ideas that will be implemented as we expand into this area. Begin with information before the child even enters the library through a visual tour and break down the storytime in imagery to help the child feel more in control and secure in the environment.

I look forward to sharing more of this information with my co-workers and seeing the changes that are made because of it.  As I mentioned, it was the relationships formed at the Institute that surprised me most, and I appreciate all of the presenters who were willing to make themselves and their resources available even after the Institute has ended. I am very grateful to the Arizona State Library for their support of myself and my library through the scholarship.

Leave a Reply