Reading Readiness Outreach: Next Level Storytimes!

By Laurieanne Armstrong and Lori Romero

It’s hard to find anything much better and more fun than a library storytime visit in an early childhood classroom. Yep. We agree. And, in our quest for widespread reading readiness before kids get to kindergarten, the Arapahoe Libraries Child & Family Library Services department wondered if we could make an even greater difference through those fun storytime visits. We wondered how we might truly create a deeper and more lasting early literacy impact in our community.

Our theory: We could indeed make a big impact if we share literacy enhanced storytime secrets more intentionally with teachers.

We know that children’s librarians are awesome and have a lot of expertise to offer. We know that children’s books are awesome and need to be shared. We know that storytimes are awesome and filled with learning opportunities. And we know that kids and teachers are awesome, period!

We decided to turn our attention to the early childhood teachers who have so many built in chances to grow early literacy connections with the kiddos throughout each day. Through our Reading Readiness Outreach (RRO) program, Laurie Anne Armstrong is taking the time to show teachers exactly how Every Child Ready to Read© skills and practices can be developed through robust storytimes. We demonstrate, offer practice opportunities and talk about best practices (coach teachers) over time, because we know that a one-shot workshop just won’t do the trick.

It’s a work in progress, and we are really excited about continued improvements.

Here are the 10 Reading Readiness Outreach ingredients we’ve put together so far, with a goal of empowering teachers to make the most of storytimes, creating library awareness, and building strong library-school-home connections:

  1. We identify high need preschools and early childhood centers in our service area. (We’re currently working in 7 schools with 19 classrooms and 34 teachers.)
  2. We talk to the directors and interested teachers, assessing needs and making sure the school is a good fit with strong commitment.
  3. We hold a preschool staff meeting at the library branch closest to the preschool site to build a library connection, welcoming participating teacher staff to tour and learn about library services, highlighting special early childhood collection items, our website, programs and offering library cards. We also provide an early literacy overview with a road map outlining the skills that will be demonstrated and learned throughout the school year.
  4. We set up a library station in the preschool lobby for our circulating, take-home bookbag project and promotional materials.
  5. We provide storytime demonstrations in participating classrooms twice each month with follow up coaching conversations, resources, tips and a review sheet.
  6. Teachers utilize storytime practice kits to follow up demonstrations.
  7. We offer various staff trainings and lunch bunch conversation opportunities to explore concepts such as management, dialogic reading, writing and math literacy.
  8. We attend parent literacy events at the sites when possible, including information about the library summer reading program, again, connecting families to the library.
  9. We observe teachers conducting storytimes.
  10. We offer end of year observations, feedback and celebrations.

The good news is that we are very fortunate that our library board of directors and leadership team are in full support of this project, and we are given the resources we need to make it work. The other good news is that any library can start the ball rolling by trying out any of the ingredients, whether it’s providing some resources and literacy tips at a training, starting a bookbag project, inviting a school staff to the library for an early literacy meeting, or lending out teacher storytime practice kits. This can be the start of something great!

What’s next for us? This summer we plan to offer a classroom-based summer reading pilot program, Thirty Books in Thirty Days, for our preschool sites that are in session over the summer. Classes will earn books to bolster their classroom libraries. We are also excited to start planning for a more formalized program evaluation to see how best we can measure impact.

Please feel free to contact Laurie Anne Armstrong or Lori Romero for information about any of the Reading Readiness Outreach program components!

Laurie Anne Armstrong

Lori Romero