Families Together: Reading Enrichment for Social/Emotional Learning Lisle Library District - Literacy/English Language Development (ELD) Project


By: Jean Demas, Literacy Librarian, Lisle Library District, Lisle, IL

Families Together: Reading Enrichment for Social/Emotional Learning (SEL) is a project designed to build social and emotional learning for birth to 5-year-old children from the Ann Reid Early Childhood Center (ARECC), Naperville School District #203. Children are joined by their parents in a weekly program at the Lisle Library District (LLD) that can be transferred from the school and library settings into the home. Traditionally, these types of skills are expected to be taught in the home environment. However, given that the limited English “at risk” parents in this program may not be aware of customary behavior, learning characteristics, or social rules that affect their children being raised in the United States, this warrants attention for supporting their children. Giving “at risk” families the opportunity to learn and improve SEL by introducing them to appropriate reading materials will reinforce the concepts being taught in the weekly program where adults learn English and SEL strategies at the library in an adjoining room while their children engage in playgroups to build their SEL coping skills.


Based on observations of parents and preschoolers in the school and library settings and current research, there is an identified need to increase SEL development awareness. Children’s improved competencies and parent’s knowledge will be key contributors to lifelong academic success. Sourcing reading as a tool will also lead to increased relational development, a strong component of SEL growth.

During the past years, with the increased number of families being screened for the school district’s preschool, there has been a noticeable need for improved SEL skills in many of the children. Some are not able to state their name or names of their parents, help with tasks such as clean-up, recognize their limits to ask for help, learn to take turns and share, or be separated from their parents for short periods of time. The appropriate types of books to read to the children, resources to show the parents how to assist their children at home, and materials to support the social and emotional learning of both children and parents will create a more positive environment for lifelong learning to take place and for encouraging educational success, reading readiness, and overall well-being in families


According to the report, Building Core Capabilities for Life from Harvard University (2016), SEL capabilities are developed in early childhood and continue to improve as a child reaches adolescent and early adult years. During the first year of life, focusing attention emerges, and by age three, children should be able to follow directions and simple rules. By ages 3-5, children improve greatly in their increased impulse control and cognitive flexibility. Bond and Hauf (2004) identified that when students learn social and emotional skills, they need to have opportunities to practice them and apply them to real life situations in a variety of settings. Kindergarten readiness, the ability to learn to read successfully, and building overall wellness and self-efficacy for parents are positive outcomes of social and emotional development.

Population and Timeline

The population served will be parents/families defined as “at-risk” and “with need” by national criteria and their early childhood offspring including birth through preschool, 0-5 years of age. The number of participants is 20 parents and their early childhood offspring, including birth through preschool, 0-5 years of age (may have 1-2 children per family). The project is being held during the school year from September 2018 through May 2019


Project Outcomes

Through a multi-type collaborative grant from RAILS (Reaching Across Illinois Library System), and support from the Lisle Library District and the Ann Reid Early Childhood Center in Naperville School District #203, this project will be an enhancement to the social and emotional learning competencies while being in concert with the curriculum used in the school district that includes the SEL component. The school district’s curriculum, Creative Curriculum Gold, is grounded in the science of the proven effective, nationally recognized curriculum that supports educators and counselors in creating a preschool/kindergarten environment to help very young children develop self-control, positive self-esteem, emotional awareness, basic problem-solving skills, social skills, and friendships.

Parents will also benefit by learning cultural norms to develop their personal skills to help their children learn positive behavior patterns for their lifelong learning. Outcome measures will be included in monthly observations by the staff overseeing the weekly program and quarterly interviews with the parents to determine how the reading enrichment program has helped them learn and reinforce SEL skills for themselves and their children.

Based on selected SEL reading materials being used in the program, this project will help improve self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, relationship skills, and responsible decision making for both children and their parents. Children will also be further exposed to the SEL materials purchased this year using RAILS grant funds by participating in reading circles in the LRC at the Ann Reid Early Childhood Center in their morning preschool before the weekly afternoon sessions at the Lisle Library District and with their parents in the Library sessions.

Two books on SEL will be read each quarter to the parents and their children. Based on the limited English and comprehension levels of the families, this type of repetitive reading is important to their understanding of the concepts being taught from the content of each book. After a title is read according to this sequence, each family will be given a copy of the book to take home, use and keep for reinforcement of the learned SEL skills, and 1-2 copies will be cataloged into the Lisle Library's and the ARECC LRC's collections.

Jean Demas is the Literacy Librarian at the Lisle Library District. She is the project coordinator and can be reached at demasj@lislelibrary.org or 1-630-971-1675 ext. 10002.