Early Literacy at ALSC Mini-Institute

Going to ALSC Mini-Institute Break-out Sessions was a little overwhelming, because many of the programs presented seemed way beyond the scope of something I could do in my own library.

But I came away challenged, inspired, and invigorated.  I was reminded of the need out there and that Librarians are shining lights and touching people’s lives.

I recently got put as the only librarian on a Neighborhood School Readiness Team — so I chose as my focus programs about getting children ready for Kindergarten, “ECRR: The Next Generation,” “Fighting Intergenerational Literacy,” and “Kindergarten Bootcamp.”

All of them had a focus on teaching parents how to get their own children ready for Kindergarten.  They all have a lot more staff to devote to their programs than I do at my branch — but I think I can move in that direction, and it’s nice to see what big things can be done.

Just a few things that jumped out at me:

From Denver Public Library, I loved their summer activities for Early Literacy, especially their series of Saturday activities with passive programming that’s out all day:  Things like a Box Day (creating things with cardboard boxes), a Mo Willems Day, and Going on a Bear Hunt Day.  They create a setting where the kids explore and play and talk, and the parents get to talk with other parents and be there with their kids.

They also have Play and Explore Centers for babies and toddlers.  Again, the children play and the parents talk.

They’ve got a “Little University” program, mostly bringing in outside groups, but teaching the children in various topics.

They’ve got some YouTube videos of Early Literacy tips with a tip at the beginning, and then an example of carrying it out.

I love what they do with Early Learning Spaces — including 52 activities in English and Spanish, which they put out to do in the library.  An example was a Color Hunt.  (“Look for anything green….”)

They’ve got a central library of Early Learning materials.  I liked the idea of taking giant Legos to outreach events.  Kids can play with the giant Legos while the parents talk with the librarians at the table.

I liked the Mailbox that moves around the library, with varying prompts.  Children write letters to librarians.  Prompts can be as simple as “Say something kind.” Or for MLK Day, “Write about your dream.”

Their approach to parents is: “How can we partner with you?”  They might ask parents to write down a life goal for their child, and then point out that we’re working on that right now.  They honor parents as lifelong curious learners.

The next speaker, Jonathan Dolce, talked about doing Intergenerational Family programs to combat illiteracy.  They meet once a week for six weeks.

He showed books representing diversity and inclusion.  They talk about the books together and do activities based on the books — He gave us examples like making guacamole, watching author interviews, and dancing together.  They call it Family Reading Connection.

The Kindergarten Boot Camp with Phoenix Public Library is a 7-week program targeting children who haven’t gone to preschool, helping the parents learn how to help them get ready for Kindergarten.

All their outcomes are about the parents’ behavior.  And the curriculum was developed based on the state standards for Kindergarten.  They developed it with a staff member who is a former Kindergarten teacher.  They have a program for certifying the additional staff who offer the program.

Between all three of these programs together, I tried not to get overwhelmed, but I was prompted to think about what ways my own library can do more to help parents actively prepare their children for Kindergarten.


  1. I love the traveling mailbox idea, creating with boxes, and the philosophy of honoring and partnering with the parents.

Leave a Reply to Administrator Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *