The Children’s Room at the Concord (Mass.) Free Public Library is a busy space, with regular storytimes and activities for children and teenagers. We have faithful patrons who return each week, newcomers who drop in spontaneously, and caregivers with children of all ages who come to read, play, and socialize. Our staff is asked every day for recommendations, and again and again, parents ask for “the best books” that they can read to their child. We know early literacy is a key to lifelong engagement by the whole family with their public library, and wanted a new, engaging way to reach our youngest patrons. How could we approach our traditional, much loved storytime with fresh energy?
Parents love lists, and there is no shortage of them on the web; but we wanted a list of our own--relevant, diverse, and reflective of the wonderful range of new and old classics in the picture book genre. We wanted books that would translate well to a vibrant read-aloud and work for different ages and comprehension levels; and with so many picture books out there, we wanted to compile a manageable list that wouldn’t overwhelm our patrons.
Choosing the Hundred
CFPL is fortunate to own an especially deep collection of picture books. We canvassed our staff and asked them for their favorite early childhood stories. Many offered ever popular choices but also unique books that were loved in childhood by their families. We researched and debated and, reluctantly, gave up some of our own cherished picks. In the end, we chose 100 titles for our CFPL list. We selected some unexpected titles and left off some popular favorites, which prompted vigorous questions from patrons. Consequently, we agreed to revisit the list every year and revise it.
Sharing the List
The 100 chosen titles are being read at select storytimes over the course of the school year, supported by an ongoing, and regularly refreshed, display that spotlights books from the list. Our technical services staff created a brochure and a coloring sheet for patrons featuring Henry T and Weezie, our mascot owls. The titles were posted on our website and there are cheerful reminders posted around the Children’s Room to engage our patrons. We offer a book prize to every young reader each time they read 33 titles and finish a coloring sheet. Whenever a child asks for a story, we pull a title from the list, read it, and tell the parents about the program. We also discuss what makes a good read aloud, or what works best between caregiver and child. We encourage our patrons to make their own list of beloved books, and remind them that the 101st book on the CFPL list will always be their choice!!—Fiona Stevenson, library assistant, Children’s and YA, Concord (Mass.) Free Public Library
Four Girl Scout Cadettes, working towards their Silver Award, wanted to promote literacy and the importance of libraries to our community. They contacted the Prince William Public Library System (PWPLS) and asked if they could plan, organize, and execute a stuffed animal sleepover for young children called the Library Bedtime Adventure. The Children’s staff at PWPLS were more than happy to support the girl scouts in earning their Silver Award and gave them guidance to make sure they followed the standards of the library system.
The Library Bedtime Adventure took place on January 20-21, 2018, but the planning for the event started back in April 2017. The scouts met regularly at the Chinn Park Regional Library to work out all the planning details. They created a video using hand puppets to promote the many fun things you can do at the library. The video was posted on YouTube and also given to the library marketing department, so they could post the video on social media and use it in further library promotions.
The scouts hosted two drop-off sessions where children brought their stuffed animal to the library for a craft, interactive story hour using a felt board, and songs, and left with a teddy bear snack. The children came back to the library the next day to find a storyboard filled with pictures of their stuffed animals having a grand adventure in the library during the sleepover. Each child also went home with a certificate and attached photo, so they have memories of the Library Bedtime Adventure.—Katherine LaVallee, Chinn Park Regional Library, Prince William (Virginia) Public Library System
As children’s librarians we are privileged to play a role in the growth and development of the children we interact with each and every day. Our expertise and expectations about child development grow with experience, but so too can our inclination to make assumptions and judgments about the actions and behaviors we witness in storytime and in the library. I have worked at several libraries across the country and have seen how frustrating this can be for both patrons and staff. As a manager and trainer, I have long sought out instructional materials that would help and at last, I may have found them.
Last year, twenty-six libraries throughout California participated in a revolutionary training initiative called Touchpoints in Libraries. Working with the Brazelton Touchpoints Center, the training builds on 40 years of pediatric practice and research on early childhood development by renowned expert T. Berry Brazelton, MD and combines it with customer-centered library services, resulting in a new perspective for library staff working with children.
The initial three-day intensive training focused on developmental milestones and on parents’ strengths and knowledge of their own children. Library staff learned to become aware of their own reactions and to listen first. They gained an ability to recognize and value passion whenever and however they encountered it. Adapting this approach to daily interactions has required mindfulness and dedication, which have been fortified in the form of reflective practice with other children’s librarians.
Creating this community of support has proven to be an exceptionally powerful tool for librarians. Staff members have reported an increase in patience and understanding with parents and children. Most importantly, sharing this common language and way of thinking has bolstered staff confidence and focus as well.
The Touchpoints in Libraries training provides a guide for library staff to understand behavioral and emotional development, as well as identify possible opportunities and strategies to connect with and support families through routine library interactions, programs, and services. It is also a practical tool for providing compassionate customer service.
In this increasingly digital world we live in, personal connections are more important than ever. Building stronger relationships allows the opportunity to make a lasting impact on our communities by helping raise well-rounded children prepared to meet their futures and thrive.
For libraries in California, please contact Suzanne Flint, Library Programs Consultant at the California State Library, for more information about the training.—Jennifer Roy, storytime trainer and consultant, Lompoc, California
(Editor's note: For anyone interested, a 2016 video introduction to the general concept of Touchpoints in Libraries is available at Vimeo.)