Posted in Conference, Early Literacy, School age, WAPL Conference

When in town, visit the library

We recently held our annual Wisconsin Association of Public Libraries conference in Rothschild, WI May 1-3.

One of the evening activities scheduled was to visit the Marathon County Public Library headquarters in Wausau, WI.

Julie, the Adult Services Librarian, gave 22 visiting library staff a tour, including some behind the scenes stuff.

When in town, I like visiting other public libraries to see how they do things. This library did not disappoint.

I took some photos of things I thought looked great or were cool ideas, including:

    Bath tub for sitting and reading in at the children’s library
    Early literacy area with a theme that changes regularly
    Let us request that for you language on the end cap sign
    Earbuds for sale in the vending machine. Genius.
    Vertical displayed TV with a display of materials underneath.
    Random Acts of Kindness passive programs in the Tween Scene.
Posted in Early Literacy, Program

ECRR: Keeping Adults Engaged

I attended an Every Child Ready to Read (ECRR) mini-session, which was 20 minutes long.

Saroj Ghoting, Early Childhood Literacy Consultant ECRR Storytime Challenge: Encouraging Adult Engagement
Children can take their cues from their caring adults. Facilitating interactions between the children and their adults not only can make storytime more fun and engaging, but also lays a foundation for building literacy and learning together. Get some ideas, share your ideas, in this whirlwind session.

I am always game for hearing Saroj Ghoting, Early Childhood Literacy Consultant, speak. This session primarily focused on how to get adults engaged during storytime (and off of their phones). We want to keep adults engaged during storytime so that they will keep doing early literacy interaction at home.

A lot of the time, one of the main reasons parents come to storytime is to talk to other parents. A big way they learn about parenting is parent-to-parent.

  • Give the adults a role to play (not, Let’s do this together.). Every 2nd or 3rd item, think of ways to make it more interactive.
  • Nametags: give to children and then give them to the adults. If you don’t give name tags to anyone, okay, but if you are giving them to the kids, then give them to the adults, too. If you give the adults a name tag, it gives them the impression that they are part of it.
  • Sing, talk, read, write, play to the tune of Skip to My Lou.
  • How to make things you are already doing more interactive? Using the book Too Noisy! Give parents a part to play, “too noisy.”
  • Jump, Frog, Jump!: have kids jump, parents say “How did the frog get away?” a repetitive phrase
  • The Cow Loves Cookies: Parents say: “But the cow loves…. ” and the kids say: “Cookies!”
  • While turning pages, parents say “flip,” kids say “swish.” You don’t need to do it with every book.
  • Round: spot things in the room that around round
  • Hickory Dickory Dock: children as mice and parents as clock. Saroj said, “It’s hard to be on your phone and be a clock at the same time.” LOL 🙂
  • Yoga: Stories, Songs, and Stretches: Creating Playful Storytimes with Yoga and Movement by Katie Scherrer. Incorporate yoga into storytime. Many adults like yoga
  • Crafts: not one per child, one per person! Let the adults work on their own and they can make a perfect one. 🙂 Children and adults can have interaction with the craft/activity.
  • Boxes: use a box and pictures from discarded books as the sides of the box. These boxes can be used as conversation starters. I remember Saroj saying the person she learned this about has now gotten these down to a science and has made them so they are collapsible for storage. See image below.
  • Play a matching game with sounds. Rhyming kitten and mitten. See image below.
  • Think experiences. Experiences pull people together. Create a ride the train experience. Set up chairs, collect tickets, modeling talk around the experience. See image below.
  • Do It Yourself/Do It Together Storytime (Phoenix, AZ). Cards have suggestions. Check out
  • Sneak things in here and there and over time your storytimes will be more engaging
  • Audience comment: Offer a family evening storytime. Have people arrive 30 minutes before closing so they can pick up material and check it out. Then they stay for the story time after hours. People love after-hours events!
Posted in Early Literacy, Partnerships, Program, Staff Training

Talking is Teaching

Program title: Talking is Teaching: Opportunities for Increasing Early Brain and Language Development

Program description: Everyday interactions such as talking, reading, and singing strengthen early brain development. Libraries are uniquely positioned to support and equip parents and caregivers with tools to be their child’s first teachers. Too Small to Fail and the San Francisco Public Library will present opportunities and share materials on how to best engage families in language-rich activities so that more of America’s children are prepared for success – both in school and in life.

Presenters: Jane Park Woo, Deputy Director, Too Small to Fail, New York, NY
Maricela Leon Barrera, Early Learning Coordinator, San Francisco Public Library, San Francisco, CA

Visit the conference website for more information or program handouts.

My notes:

This was the first concurrent program that I attended at PLA. Meaning, I had the choice of several other programs during that same time slot.

The speakers provided some research first focusing on the word gap and the importance of talking, reading, and singing. The most dramatic time for brain growth is ages 0-5.

Goals of Too Small to Fail (TSTF): Increase awareness and spark positive change in parents and communities to boost early brain and language development in children ages 0-5.

  • For parents and young children, make small moments big.
  • For communities, empower people and places to make these moments happen more often.

Too Small to Fail has free handouts in English/Spanish. All are open source.

Talking is Teaching is a campaign of Too Small to Fail that focuses on talk, read, and sing and has three main components to motivate behavior change:

1.Trusted messengers in community touch points
2.Environmental prompts & paid media
3.Tools to facilitate change

The program is powered by local and national sponsors

Meet families where they are – laundromats (Wash Time is Talk Time) — coordinated through the Coin Laundry Association (Who knew there was such a thing?), playgrounds (using conversation prompts), grocery stores, hospitals, and bus stops (ads).

Talking is Teaching is all open source and is available for co-branding. Letter for librarians, talking points to share with parents, resources for librarians.

Why did Too Small to Fail work with libraries?

  • A trusted partner in the community
  • Wide reach in every neighborhood
  • Amplify other early literacy initiatives

Why did San Francisco Public Library (SFPL) want to work with TSTF?

  • It was successful in the neighboring system, Oakland PL
  • Alignment with Every Child Ready to Read
  • Enhance early learning efforts
  • Partner in education
  • Graphics are inviting

Early Learning at San Francisco Public Library

  • Every Child Ready to Read Workshop (ECRR) – modeling storytime, key things to do while you read, and hand out talk, read, sing bags
  • Play to Learn areas in all branches
  • Storytimes in braille and ASL
  • Big SF Playdates – different centers to play in
  • Early Literacy Buffet for educators – each child care teacher was provided a bag as a trusted messenger to expand reach.

Wanted to bring in families on the margin. As an opener, they ask parents/caregivers, “How many of you talk to your kids?” Share with families about the building blocks of ECRR.


  1. Staff training from Talking is Teaching, including the why of the program
  2. Making it SFPL (local). Set up an Early Literacy Advisory Committee (note to self: ask for documentation)
  3. Reaching families

Provided Bags to Families

  • Available in Spanish and English, including a 2T shirt or baby blanket, 1 board book, 1 bilingual CD, informational notecards of milestones 0-2 and how to promote early literacy at home
  • Each librarian gets a sample bag to show people what they are talking about
  • Warm handoff of bag; make it as easy as possible to distribute to families: Opening prompt, a research tidbit, info about the campaign, invite to visit the library. Embedded message is that it is more than a bag
  • Backpack giveaways at food pantries
  • Swing Into Stories (at playgrounds)

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An example was given of Baltimore Co. Public Library’s Let’s Talk About campaign. Signage was everywhere, Let’s Talk About the Playground (in the playground), Let’s Talk about the Farm (by the play farm animals). Everything was branded.

What can you do?

1.DOWNLOAD free campaign materials:


2.DISPLAY “Talking is Teaching” posters

3.SHARE tip sheets, mini posters, and/or stickers with families

4.SPREAD the word with other librarians!