The Newton Free Library in Newton, MA offers several programs for kids and families with a focus on books and literacy. The programs are free but adults do have to register ahead of time. Book Bunch is a book club for 1st and 2nd graders and their adults that takes place for about an hour, once a month. The children and adults are expected to read the book of the month ahead of time, and the librarian begins each session simply by asking the kids and adults if they liked it or not. Then she asks them some questions to get a discussion going. Activities sometimes include scavenger hunts, watching related videos, using the iPad, or visiting the Newton Free Library Art Gallery if it relates to the book in some way. The librarian chooses a different genre of book each month which provides some variety. Participants sit on carpeted risers not the floor which is more comfortable for the adults. In terms of engagement, sometimes the adults are too eager to contribute to the discussion which can take away from the children’s participation.
The Adventures in Reading program follows a similar format to the Book Bunch but is for kindergarteners and lasts 45 minutes. The librarian utilizes the Whole Book Approach which was developed by Megan Lambert at the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art. WBA is a different way of leading story time and includes “opportunities to discuss how the pictures, design, and production elements of the picture book form interact with the text to create an artistic whole.” (You can read more about the Whole Book Approach here.) The librarian also provides a list of vocabulary for the families to take home with them with the goal of encouraging the adults to promote language development at home.
The Every Child Ready to Read® program is a formatted, PLA and ALA developed program for 3- and 4-year-olds. The purpose is teaching the parents about early literacy. The class meets weekly for four weeks and focuses on the alphabet, words, math, and science. One successful activity the librarian facilitated was turning a pizza box into a flannel board to stick felt fabric shapes onto: a simple, inexpensive way to recycle materials.
STEAM Ahead is a monthly program with an emphasis on math and science books. Geared toward 3- to 5-year-olds, families gather to listen to a story or two, and do an activity. The goal here is to inspire families to research and do things at home. At first, the librarian found that adults weren’t participating so she provided handouts with science questions to give to the adults as a way to keep them interested in the program and also allow them to be able to support their children. When facilitating science experiments or activities, the librarian puts out old cookie sheets to be the kids’ personal work spaces. This helps to keep things organized and makes for easy clean up. She provides everything they need on their own tray. She also recycles plastic bottle caps for paint, water, or Elmer’s glue.
The librarian has done some prototyping related to the location and setup of the programs. At first, the tables were too close together allowing space for only the kids and pushed the parents aside. Once they rearranged the tables, families could spread out and adults could sit or stand next to their child.
For all of the programs the librarian runs, the main goal is to expose children to different types of books. She tries to layer in the content through related activities, but also remains flexible and willing to change the plan if needed. She hopes the children enjoy reading and talking about books with their caregivers.
Special thanks to Sandy Leifeld and Deena Zuckerman at the Newton Free Library in Newton, MA. http://www.newtonfreelibrary.net/
Every Child Ready to Read® @ your library®, PLA and ALSC logos are registered trademarks of the American Library Association and are used with permission.