Early Literacy and School Readiness Programs @ Your Public Library

By AzLA Public Library Division

Public libraries around Arizona are filling a need for quality early literacy education and school readiness. Many children 0-5 around the state lack access to quality childhood education. Parents and caregivers face new challenges to get their children ready for school as the expectations for what kids need to know before kindergarten have changed.

Why the public library? Public libraries are often seen as safe spaces, which already offer a variety of services and programs for caregivers and their families. Additionally, our hours tend to be more flexible for everyday busy families than traditional learning settings. 

How can you provide a School Readiness program beyond traditional storytimes? Several libraries offer programming and are happy to share their resources and what they’ve learned along the way. We are going to take a look at Phoenix Public Library, Chandler Public Library, and Pima County Public Library’s programs. 

Kindergarten Bootcamp

Phoenix Public Library began offering Kindergarten Bootcamp in 2014. To date there have been 312 series with approximately 3800 attendees. 

Vicky Vela-Thai explains, it is a 7-week, 1 hour per week series for parents/caregivers and their child who will begin kindergarten in the upcoming school year. The goal is to teach parents/caregivers school readiness skills by modeling the skills, giving them time to practice the skills during the program, and then giving them homework to continue practicing the skills at home. Each week of class focuses on a different school readiness subject. 

Throughout the seven weeks the program covers vocabulary, phonological awareness, emergent writing, self-regulation, science, math, and various classroom skills. The Arizona Kindergarten standards as well as the Arizona Early Learning standards were used to design every activity in the program.

Staff go through a lengthy training before teaching the program. They first must learn an overview about the need for school readiness skills in Arizona and why this program is needed. Then they observe an entire 7-week series. When they teach their first series, they are accompanied by one of the program experts so they can receive feedback and tips after each class.

Programs are held in libraries as well as at outreach locations. In June and July 2020 there were 10 series offered online through WebEx and 12 more WebEx series are scheduled between now and December 2020. Kindergarten Bootcamp is funded mainly through grants from First Things First and the Phoenix Public Library Foundation.

Ready, Set, Kindergarten!

Chandler Public Library’s Ready, Set, Kindergarten! program began in January 2018 at the Downtown Library. Since then sessions have been added to each of the four Chandler Public Library locations and as Outreach. 

According to Kristain Johnston, RSK! is a 7 week school readiness program for 4 and 5 year olds beginning Kindergarten in the fall. Each week is themed and includes stories, songs and activities that help caregivers understand the skills necessary for school success. Class size is limited to 15.

The most recent revision to the curriculum includes a strong social/emotional component to help caregivers prepare their child for the school setting. Staff at each library location are required to observe a full 7 week session of Ready, Set, Kindergarten! and meet with the Literacy Coordinator before facilitating their own session. 

Outreach programs are facilitated by the Library’s Literacy Assistant who is funded by a grant from the City Of Chandler. The Literacy Assistant also works closely with Read On Chandler to provide outreach sessions in Title 1 schools as well as other community locations with underserved populations.

Ready, Set, School!

Pima County Public Library’s program, Ready, Set, School!, is modeled after Chandler’s program. An example of borrowing ideas and programming from other libraries to help us achieve a shared goal statewide. 

Ready, Set, School! is an 8 week course designed to help children develop essential skills for academic success and prepare them for a kindergarten classroom setting. Importantly it is intended to help caregivers learn how to interact with their children in a way that will support their development and practice essential learning skills.

PCPL began Ready, Set, School in the fall of 2019 and was well received with 100% of caregivers reporting that they learned something they could share with their children, 97% felt more confident helping their child learn, and 94% intended to spend more time interacting with their child.

Due to Covid-19, Ready, Set, School started online in April 2020. Ready, Set, School online required a curriculum overhaul and change of interactive activities that would allow caregivers and their children to participate from home. The program is offered in both English and Spanish with 8 sessions once per week via Facebook Live. 10-15 families watch Ready, Set, School live, and sessions are recorded so families can watch at their convenience with over 1,000 views of the recorded sessions. Families in Pima County that register for the Facebook Live sessions can visit their closest library to pick up program materials, and families from around the world are invited to watch and rewatch Ready, Set, School! Check out the recordings on the Pima County Public Library’s Facebook Video Page

Your Public Library

Arizona Public Libraries are creating programs and initiatives that make our communities stronger, more informed, and better connected. When we work together, we are all better equipped to serve our communities. If you are interested in more information about these Early Literacy and School Readiness programs, contact:

Vicky Vela-Thai | Early Literacy Outreach Supervisor

Phoenix Public Library

[email protected]

Kristain Johnston | Literacy Programs Coordinator

Chandler Public Library

[email protected]

Kendra Davey | Literacy Initiatives Program Manager

Pima County Public Library

[email protected]

If you have programs, initiatives, or information that you would like to share with other Public Libraries around Arizona, contact your AzLA Public Library Division Co-chairs:

Kaitlyn Sparks | Assistant Manager

Pima County Public Library

Debe Moreno | Youth Services Librarian

Chandler Public Library

 at [email protected] 

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