Preschool 0–5

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Talking Points for
Public Libraries

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1. The public library provides an interactive, free place for parents and their young child to enjoy the written and spoken word, aided by library professionals skilled in early literacy techniques that parents can replicate at home.

Quick Stats Supporting This Talking Point

As children's librarians, in addition to providing resources, we are in a unique position to run programs for parents or caregivers and children that help build the preliteracy skills underlying school readiness. (Diamant-Cohen 2007)

Library-based and -run lap-sitting programs, toddler times, preschool story times, adult literacy programs, access to educational video games, and general family programs are all excellent strategies for contributing to school readiness development. (Diamant-Cohen 2007)

In family programs at some public libraries, parents are given books to read aloud to their children during the actual sessions. Peer pressure and gentle librarian encouragement inspires them to share the book with their child, even if it is not something that they routinely do at home. However, the hope is that after doing it week after week at the public library, they will grow accustomed to book-sharing behavior and begin reading aloud to their child at home also. Some libraries allow the parents to keep the books, increasing the likelihood that they will continue reading aloud to their child at home. (Diamant-Cohen 2007)

Public library programs offer wonderful opportunities for promoting school-readiness skills in children and creating positive associations with books while showing parents how important these skills are and how to reinforce them at home. (Diamant-Cohen 2007)

Librarians can help parents and caregivers by making available quality books on parenting and appropriate children's literature, such as lullaby and song books, Mother Goose rhymes, and books showing objects, patterns, and other stimuli. Librarians can also encourage parents and caregivers to talk, sing, and read to their infants. (Greene 1991)

Two conditions found essential for creating a reader are (1) an early environment that offers literary experience, that is, a print-filled environment (books, magazines, newspapers, etc.), and adults reading these materials, and (2) a caring adult to introduce the child to literary pleasure. The public library meets both requirements. (Greene 1991)

As parents watch a skilled librarian model reading to enthralled little ones, they learn how to modulate voice tones and add variety to the way words are used in order to attract children to a love of story time and books. (Immroth and Ash-Geisler 1995)

Libraries are well acquainted with the fact that preschool storybook reading experience is positively correlated with the development of a wide range of language and literacy abilities in young children. Furthermore, it is very common for libraries to provide in-house storybook reading programs at the library or to run outreach programs aimed at families…; child care professionals or preschool teachers…; or others in the community. Outreach projects typically seek to reach children directly through read-aloud programs or to educate parents, preschool teachers, or child care professionals in what and how to read to preschoolers. (Immroth and Ash-Geisler 1995)

The free-flowing nature of the library also allowed for parents to actively participate in their children's reading. Noting the lack of literacy programs available for children at the shelter and in the community, one mother talked about the public library as being the place she could take her children to support their literacy development.
Library attendance served as a springboard for parents to communicate messages about the expectations that they had for their children as readers. (MacGillivray, Ardell and Curwen 2010)

Schools and community organizations, such as libraries, can serve to support families, as well as provide direct literacy experiences to children and youth that complement family practices. (Epstein and Sanders 2002)

For this family, the library facilitated parent-child bonds. The mother also saw it as a safe place for developing a love for books. She was acting as the one with knowledge who was supporting her child's literacy growth. (MacGillivray, Ardell and Curwen 2010)

Parents of children in classrooms using Storytimes to Go! kits receive "Parent Activity Sheets" for every kit the teacher borrows. These sheets feature activities such as finger plays, art, and exploration activities that they can use to extend the child's preschool experiences into the home. The sheets provide booklists that families can take to the library to assist them in selecting age-appropriate books. (Pflug 2004)

ALSC and PLA concluded that public libraries could have an even greater impact on early literacy through an approach that focused on educating parents and caregivers. If the primary adults in a child's life can learn more about the importance of early literacy and how to nurture pre-reading skills at home, the effect of library efforts can be multiplied many times. (Association for Library Service to Children (ALSC) and Public Library Association (PLA) 2005; ALSC and PLA 2011)

Parents or caregivers and their children can experience and explore children's books, rhymes, songs, and imagination activities by attending storytime programs presented at public libraries. (Williams 2007)

...[L]ibraries and librarians, working cooperatively with family literacy programs or other community wide programs, may serve children in their homes or in libraries. [Further, it] also suggests that libraries can employ special programs that promote children's early literacy development or they may distribute materials to be used in homes or child care settings. (Teale 1995)

The public library bridges an important gap and allows children from low income families to have a better chance at succeeding in school. Children from middle-income families enter kindergarten having experienced an average of 1700 hours of shared reading. Children from low income families have had only 25 hours. (Adams 1990)

Children whose parents read to them become better readers and perform better in school. Other family activities, such as telling stories and singing songs, also encourage children’s acquisition of literacy skills. (Association for Library Service to Children (ALSC) and Public Library Association (PLA) 2005; ALSC and PLA 2011) Children who do not receive these benefits at home can find them at the public library.

Early literacy theory emphasizes a natural unfolding of skills through the enjoyment of books, the importance of positive interactions between young children and adults, and the critical role of literacy-rich experiences. (Roth, Paul and Pierotti 2006) Librarians are professionals, knowledgeable in early literacy theory. Not only can children benefit from their expertise, but parents can improve their own knowledge in this critical area.