Thursday, June 30, 2016

The Importance of Deliberate Play Opportunities for School-age Kids and Teens

In the spirit of Summer Reading, this post will be filled with completely unrelated galaxy cats.

I’ve talked about the power of play in relation to early literacy and the Babies Need Words Every Day campaign. Today, I want to talk about the importance of the deliberate use of play with school-age children and adolescents.

When we talk about play and creativity in the library, we often talk about young children. And why not? Play is one of Every Child Ready to Read’s five practices. Once children hit kindergarten, though, we talk about makerspaces. We talk about STEM. Even though these are steeped in self-discovery in the library, the overt goal is to educate. Or, at least, add to our evidence that the library helps children “learn” by the academic definition. And for good reason:  It’s clear that libraries have resonated with stake holders about their role in early literacy education. The next obvious step is to show that we make an academic difference with school-age children. Some libraries do pre- and post-tests to prove Summer Reading helps prevent the Summer Slide. I’ve created outreach with measurable alignment to State Standards.

But it’s important not to lose the very real fact that play has non-academic benefits. If you’ve been following this blog for a while you may notice that even saying this signals a huge shift in my thinking over the past year or so. Down to the deepest parts of my heart and soul, I am an educator who was born out of the public school system and for all its faults I will defend what is considered a public school classroom until at least the end of this sentence, and probably after that. I will give you that it’s not for every single individual; but public education has never been about The Single Individual, anyway.

That’s why I think it may feel so critical to me that I separate the library from its possible academic benefits here.  Play has so many additional benefits, especially for school-age children and adolescents who come from backgrounds in trauma: those who live with food insecurity or transiency, those who live with toxic stress, those who live in volatile or neglectful environments. Those who may not have a space to play. Basically, a lot of the kids and teens who come into our libraries whether we’re aware of it or not.

If we wanted more deliberately center our school-age and teen programming around play in a non-academic way, what could we say to justify it?

Friday, June 10, 2016

Attention Parent Friends:The Case for Summer Reading

Google image search: "Summer". Checks out.
A lot of times, my main audience is library staff, specifically in Youth Services. Sometimes, though, I like to talk to the public in general. This post is inspired by my non-librarian friends all over the country who love to tell me when they’ve connected to their local libraries—and right now I'm getting at least weekly messages that people are signing up for Summer Reading!

PARENTS: Sign yourself and your (possibly still in utero) children up for your local library’s Summer Reading Program!

What is Summer Reading?
Summer Reading is an ongoing drop-in program happening throughout the summer across the United States (and across the northern hemisphere currently, if you want to get technical). Public libraries everywhere encourage children and families to read and engage in enriching literacy- and learning-based activities throughout the summer.  Many programs involve a reading log or game card with which your child or family can track their reading and other activities throughout the summer. At intervals throughout the summer (minutes or books read, or sheets turned in), small prizes may be awarded, sometimes with the possibility of raffles for larger prizes. Many libraries choose to giveaway a book as a final prize or even as a sign up incentive.

Throughout the summer there also fun events to attend. Think parties, carnivals, concerts, programming series with a weekly “summer camp” feel… all at your public library!

Many libraries offer Summer Reading for ages 0-adult; meaning that it starts at age zero (obviously a read-to-me program). Adults can read for prizes and/or glory too!

As with the vast majority of public library programming, funding for Summer Reading comes from general programming funds or fundraising from the Friends of the Library group, so you pay nothing to join!

Why should my family join Summer Reading?