No Child Left Behind @ your library?

I am back on my early literacy soapbox, thanks to the checklist someone passed to me of how library staff in one library system are being rated on their storytimes. The checklist is entirely based on Every Child Ready to Read standards. It includes things like: “Presenter makes connections between letters in children’s names and in alphabet book or book title”.

Reading is important. Building reading skills is important. Getting young children ready to read using the six skills of early literacy is important. But the most important thing is story.

Schools have to implement No Child Left Behind styles of teaching reading to get funded. But I think many of us in Youth Services would agree that focusing too much on the mechanics of reading is a huge mistake. Are we falling into that same trap in libraries?

It’s the stories that count the most. Story is fundamental iin humankind–it’s why we pass them along for hundreds of years. It’s why we tell them to our children over and over. Stories help children become loving, connected, ethical human beings by what they tell about how people relate to each other. (Often the “people” are animals in picture books, but it means the same thing.) Stories are also how children can broaden their experience out of their own family into the whole big world out there of the past and the present and the potential future.

I love building early literacy elements into the library space. And any good storytime provider is going to work the six early literacy skills into their story programs naturally, because books are made out of words and words are made out of letters and leading children into talking about the stories and predicting what’s going to happen are just the sorts of things you do while reading with children.

But you have to start with good stories. In my Storytime for Big Kids program this week (ages 4-K) these kids, like so many others I have worked with over the years, were amazed and delighted by Keiko Kasza’s The Wolf’s Chicken Stew. I could have spent a lot of time talking about how the wolf was making 100 of each food to feed the chicken to fatten her up; we could have speculated on whether the foods were nutritious or discussed if one of the children in the room had a name that began with W, same as Wolf….but all of that would have sidetracked the surprise that makes children burst out laughing, when the Chicken introduces “Uncle Wolf” to the 100 chicks he’s been inadvertently feeding.

It’s the story that counts. It’s the story that provides the foundation, and the phonological awareness, letter knowledge, print motivation and so on get swept in with that great belly laugh and the longing to read the story again and again. So please, put “Did the presenter use some great stories” on your storytime checklists. Otherwise, all we are providing is No Child Left Behind @ Your Library.

This entry was posted in Child Development, Children's books, Programs, Public libraries, Youth Services. Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to No Child Left Behind @ your library?

  1. Andrea says:

    There was a checklist like the one you describe included in the materials I received at Every Child Ready to Read training. In my early literacy training sessions for staff, I have used it to provide examples of the ways storytellers could model early literacy behaviors in storytime. I’d never recommend that a storyteller try to incorporate all the behaviors in one storytime, or even try to touch on every one of the “Six Early Literacy Skills” in one go. I’m curious as to how other libraries are using the Every Child Ready to Read materials and training in their storytimes.

  2. Susan says:

    I’d be interested to hear how libraries are using it, too, Andrea. To me, they make a good thing to review while planning the storytime, but I’d never tell one of my staff they HAD to incorporate it and then mark them on whether they did or not.

  3. Terri says:

    I completely agree with you Susan. We can incorporate Every Child Ready to Read in subtle ways into our storytimes, but it should be about the story and getting the children interested in reading a great story. If everything is a ‘teaching moment’ and we can’t lose ourselves in the excitement of the story, then the fun and motivation to read is lost.

  4. Andrea says:

    Definitely, Terri. If we lose the fun, we’re missing out on one of the most important parts of early literacy — the positive literacy experience.

  5. Carol says:

    Maybe the real opportunity is in offering the “No Child Left Behind” story telling for caregivers to encourage reading to children in a way the fosters literacy skills every day.

    I agree with Susan, Andrea, and Terri. Library storytime should be fun and exciting and awaken a hunger for the story that is only satisfied if you continue to visit the library and learn to read.

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