The ideas presented in this class have been transformative to me as I consider my future as a librarian. The issue of literacy, and specifically family literacy, really struck a chord with me. I believe that approaching the issue of literacy from a family perspective can have a transformative generational impact.
I enjoyed reading about the way the theory of family literacy began from the inception of the term in the early 1980s by Denny Taylor. The rise in popularity of the programs in the 1990s was encouraging; however, studies in the early 2000s questioning the effectiveness of family literacy programming has impacted the implementation and funding of programs. I learned about what is considered the most essential components of an effective literacy program: an adult component, a child component, and a parent-child component, such as “basic skills education for adult family members to help them learn skills for the workplace; early childhood education for the children to bolster the skills they will need to succeed in school; parent education that enables adult family members to discuss parenting practices, nutrition, and the importance of literacy learning for their children; time for the adults and children to participate together in literacy activities that they can also do at home” (Holloway 2004).
Learning about literacy resources was beneficial to help expand my knowledge about what was available on the topic of family literacy and to assist families, especially online. The “Start with a Book” website (www.startwithabook.org) had a wealth of information to help families keep up reading and make connections together during the summer. There were also two classic print resources, including Jim Trelease’s The Read-Aloud Handbook. It is in its seventh edition, and continues to work to inspire families to add reading aloud to their daily routine to help promote literacy and a love for reading. Highlights magazine also remains in print and is a great opportunity for shared family reading time and activities.
For me, the best part of the semester has been interviewing professionals in the literacy field. Because of their generosity and willingness to speak to me on the issue, I actually got to talk to five different professionals. When I first started reaching out to people who worked with family literacy, I contacted several organizations. At first, I only heard back from Dan Marcou of Hennepin County libraries. I was so grateful for the opportunity to speak to him, since I had admired his work since first reading about it in American Libraries magazine. Mr. Marcou’s literacy efforts within correctional facilities include both adult and family literacy programs. He also is passionate about helping inmates realize the range of free services that the library offers to help them with transition back into society after their release.
After I did the interview with Mr. Marcou for our assignment, several of the other professionals responded and agreed to talk with me. Even though our assignment was already turned in, my personal interest in the issue of family literacy, and especially family literacy outreach, compelled me to take advantage of the opportunity to talk to these innovative professionals. So I learned about many different types of family literacy programs that are available throughout the United States. Kim Noriega discussed the award-winning READ/San Diego program, which works through the library system to provide the three components of family literacy: adult education, child education, and parent-child activities together. Beth Rollingson talked to me about the Advocacy Outreach literacy program in Elgin, Texas. Her story of how they began by targeting homeless populations and women’s shelters, and created a family literacy program to serve the community of Elgin and its surrounding areas, was fascinating. Rollingson also provided a lot of information regarding the recent funding difficulties that have occurred as government and state organizations have cut back their financial support of family literacy. I also spoke with Johanna Hosking-Pulido regarding her work as the Parent Education Coordinator for the ASPIRE family literacy program in Austin. We discussed the link between family literacy and ESL programs, since many of their students qualify for both programs. I also spoke with Kallie Benes, who is a librarian at the Children’s Museum of Houston. The Children’s Museum has partnered with Houston Public Library and created FLIP (Family Literacy Involvement Program) kits. The FLIP kits can be checked out using a Houston public library card at 35 branches. The FLIP kits include family literacy activities based around the theme of a particular book. There are 201 different versions of the kit, and more than 2000 FLIP kits available for checkout (FLIP Kits 2015). I was truly inspired by the passion and creativity these individuals bring to their family literacy programming.
After discussing the difficulties of funding with Beth Rollingson, especially since the cancelling of the government’s Even Start program (family literacy component of Head Start), I was glad to find a few grants that could be connected to family literacy programs. Through my research, I found the Wish You Well Foundation, the Dollar General Foundation Family Literacy Grants, the Sparks! Innovation Grants, and the Lois Lenski Foundation grant. The Lois Lenski grant no longer provides grants for public libraries - unless it is for a bookmobile program. Since one of the components of family literacy that I have researched includes a bookmobile-based program, this would be an option for funding that type of programming.
Literacy and Economics:
Since all of my professional and parenting experience has been in Texas, I was interested in starting to learn about what the literacy and economic situation is in Colorado. As with many areas of Texas, there is a group of counties, mostly in the Southeastern portion of the state, where widespread poverty is an issue. I investigated Otero County, Colorado. The percentage of children in poverty for 2009-2013 was 42.4% with 68% eligible for free lunch. One of the most interesting things about this county was that the high school graduation rate was 75.7%, which is above the state average. However, the Bachelor degree or higher rate was only 15.4%. So these children are graduating high school, but are not moving on to higher education that can lead to better-paying jobs. This made me wonder about the role of digital literacy in this area. As we have learned this semester, there are higher-level literacy components that are needed in our increasingly digital world. One way this particular area may need help is through programs that increase the skill level of its high school graduates to move onto higher education and more technically proficient jobs.
For my observations this semester, I observed a traditional family storytime at the public library, a creative “Teddy Bear Camp” program at the public library, and listened to a lecture regarding the best practices when working with families, titled “The Impact of Family on Literacy Development” (Edwards 2013). While all three had their strengths and weaknesses, both programs and the lecture offered insight into ways to approach working with families in the area of family literacy.
A few other articles, papers, and lectures that I read during the course of our classwork had an impact on me as well. “Promoting Preschool Literacy: A Family Literacy Program for Homeless Mothers and Their Children” is a research article detailing a Family Literacy Program at a homeless shelter in an urban area of Ontario, Canada (Di Santo 2012). I also learned a lot from viewing the lecture “Unbarred: Strengthening Families Affected by Incarceration Conference – Library Outreach to Corrections Facilities: Promoting Reading, Reentry and Relationships” in Minneapolis, Minnesota. It can be found at www.danielmarcou.com/presentations. Another area that interested me was the “Providence Talks” program in Rhode Island, based on research that says that by the age of 3, low-income children have heard 30 million fewer words than their more affluent peers (Ludden 2013).
The more I learn about family literacy and ways that programs can affect generational literacy issues, the more I am driven to find a way to incorporate this area into my future as a librarian. I have learned so much over this semester. I consider it a positive sign that I continue to research and look into family literacy programs and outreach even after the assignments are due and the homework completed. To me, that is a true indication that I have found an area of librarianship and literacy that I would like to continue to pursue once I graduate.
Di Santo, Aurelia. (2012). “Promoting Preschool Literacy: A Family Literacy Program for Homeless Mothers and Their Children.” Childhood Education 88, no. 4.
Edwards, Patricia & Piazza, Susan. (2013). “The Impact of Family on Literacy Development: Convergence, controversy, and instructional implications”. You Tube. Posted by Global Conversations in Literacy Research Seminar Series. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hodO0kn8Kik
"FLIP Kits Family Literacy Involvement Program." (2015). Children's Museum of Houston. Accessed March 5, 2015. http://www.cmhouston.org/flip.
Highlights Magazine. (2015) Honesdale, Pennsylvania. Highlights Press.
Holloway, John H. (2004) "Family Literacy." Educational Leadership 61, no. 6: 88-89. Professional Development Collection, EBSCOhost (accessed January 22, 2015).
Ludden, Jennifer. (2013) "Closing The 'Word Gap' Between Rich And Poor." NPR. Accessed February 16, 2015. http://www.npr.org/2013/12/29/257922222/closing-the-word-gap-between-rich-and-poor.
Marcou, Daniel. (2015) "Presentations." Daniel Marcou. Accessed February 16, 2015. http://www.danielmarcou.com/presentations/.
"Start with a Book." (2015) Start with a Book. (Accessed February 6, 2015). http://www.startwithabook.org.
Trelease, Jim. (2013) The Read-aloud Handbook. 7th ed. New York: Penguin Press.
This is some of my classwork referenced above from throughout the semester regarding Family Literacy:
Literacy Paper - Research Link: Family Literacy
The term “Family Literacy” was coined by researcher Denny Taylor in 1983 in describing the ways in which reading and writing were embedded in the daily lives of families. Since then, the concept of family literacy has developed as a method of exploring supportive literacy development within a family environment (International Encyclopedia of Marriage and Family 2003).
In his Educational Leadership article, “Family Literacy”, author John Holloway evaluates the development of family literacy programs, as well as key components to their successful implementation.
Holloway begins by analyzing the National Center for Education Statistics survey which links early reading proficiency with literacy activities in the home. The Early Childhood Longitudinal Study measured home literacy activities and showed a “positive relationship between a home literacy environment and children’s reading knowledge and skills” (Holloway 2004, p. 88).
Holloway defines comprehensive family literacy programs as having the following components: “basic skills education for adult family members to help them learn skills for the workplace; early childhood education for the children to bolster the skills they will need to succeed in school; parent education that enables adult family members to discuss parenting practices, nutrition, and the importance of literacy learning for their children; time for the adults and children to participate together in literacy activities that they can also do at home” (Holloway 2004, p. 89).
Evaluations of family literacy programs that incorporate these elements show value for both the parent and child. Holloway references a 2000 study in which participants’ benefits included “increased reading time spent with parents, improved language skills, increased interest in books, and increased enjoyment of reading” (Holloway 2004, p. 89). Parents also reported “increased self-esteem, confidence, literary competence, parental efficacy, and interest in their own education as well as a better understanding of the important role that parents play in their children’s education” (Holloway 2004, p. 89).
The article points out factors that can limit family literacy activities, including poverty, race/ethnicity, education, and families with a home language other than English. As a result, many formalized family literacy programs are targeting disadvantaged families (Holloway 2004, p. 88). Holloway’s article focuses on studies that support family literacy programs, and does not include any studies that may question the value of such programs.
Both public and school libraries are natural vehicles for Family Literacy programming. Public libraries can incorporate family literacy programs within their library walls through regularly offered in-house programming, or through outreach to different locations, such as shelters, refugee centers, and prisons. School libraries can host parent-child family literacy nights on a regular basis, collaborating with faculty, administration, and support groups such as the PTO for funding and assistance.
"Family Literacy." (2003). International Encyclopedia of Marriage and Family.
Holloway, John H. (2004) "Family Literacy." Educational Leadership 61, no. 6: 88-89. Professional Development Collection, EBSCOhost (accessed January 22, 2015).
Summary: The Start with a Book website is an excellent source for families exploring literacy. It is a project of Reading Rockets, focusing on literacy ideas during the summer, but its resources can really be used for families year round. Category headings on the website include 24 Learning Themes, Summer Science, Reading Aloud, Fluent Kids, Kids’ Books, and Literacy Resources. The website feature topic lists of books by subject matter, reading adventure packs, parent tips, craft ideas, field trip ideas, and author/illustrator interviews. It is colorful and easy to navigate, truly overflowing with ideas for using literacy to bond families.
Justifications: Startwithabook.org is listed as an ALA Great Websites for Kids (sponsored by the ALSC) and received positive reviews from Common Sense Media and the Parents Choice Foundation. It also was the Silver Award 2012 winner in the Education and Family/Parenting category in the W3 awards, which honors excellence on the web.
Citation: "Start with a Book." (2015). Start with a Book. Accessed February 6, 2015. http://www.startwithabook.org.
The Read-Aloud Handbook: Seventh Edition by Jim Trelease
Summary: The classic text on sharing literacy continues to inspire and explain why reading aloud and literacy-rich environment is important in developing lifelong readers and learners. The book has sold millions of copies, since the first edition was released in 1982, and has been updated to tackle such issues as standardized testing and digital learning. It is a source of information and inspiration for parents, educators, librarians, caregivers, families, and anyone interested in the issue of literacy.
Justification: Core work; Key Author, positive reviews from The Washington Post, The Denver Post, The Los Angeles Herald Examiner; recommended by the International Reading Association; author Jim Trelease received the Jeremiah Ludington Memorial Award for outstanding contribution to reading, presented by Educational Paperback Publishers Association.
Citation: Trelease, Jim. (2013). The Read-aloud Handbook. 7th ed. New York: Penguin Press.
Highlights for Children magazine
Summary: Highlights magazine continues to be a perennial favorite for introducing reading and stories to families with children of all ages. Highlights is a magazine that can be read independently by some readers, but many of the articles, stories, and activities are easily shared among family members. Stories are short and engaging, and easy to share, even for adults who may not be confident in their own literacy skills. Early decoding strategies are present in Rebus stories, as well as some non-verbal opportunities for family discussion and fun through Hidden Pictures. Highlights magazine has been in print for more than 65 years, which helps strengthen the nostalgia connection between parent or caregiver and child - many adults remember enjoying the magazine, and are excited to share the experience with their children. One note, High Five magazine, a spin-off of Highlights for younger children, has just begun its first bilingual Spanish version of the magazine: High Five Bilingüe.
Justification: Core work; Core literacy publisher; awards give by The Association of Educational Publishers, iParenting Media, National Association for Gifted Children, National Conference of Christians and Jews, National Parenting Center, National Safety Council, Parents’ Choice, and Parent’s Guide to Children’s Media Awards.
Citation: Highlights Magazine. (2015). Honesdale, Pennsylvania. Highlights Press.
Family Literacy Outreach - Interview with Dan Marcou
For this assignment, I interviewed Mr. Dan Marcou, corrections librarian for Hennepin County Public library system in Minnesota. He provides support at the Adult Correctional Facility, which has inmates who have been convicted to short-term sentences of less than one year.
Mr. Marcou’s literacy outreach programs at the Adult Correctional Facility in Hennepin County include family literacy programs, financial literacy and job search workshops, as well as other adult literacy programs such as author events, poetry workshops, and writing workshops. He also serves as one of two librarians who provide library services to inmates every week. Library Journal recognized Mr. Marcou as a 2009 Mover and Shaker for his work promoting the library as a resource for people reentering society after time in a corrections facility (Marcou 2015).
My particular area of interest was in Mr. Marcou’s family literacy outreach program, Read to Me, which I first read about in American Libraries magazine (Cottrell 2014). Mr. Marcou got into Literacy Outreach programs after jobs as a small town library director and a consumer health librarian. He feels that literacy programs are a natural part of the work of librarians. “You’re missing something big if you don’t become part of it.” Mr. Marcou notes that especially with the non-traditional library users he services, many have never been exposed to library services. “Many, many people I’m serving are first time library users.”
When discussing factors that contribute to illiteracy, Mr. Marcou says that watching his young son develop has helped him realize how important literacy skills can be from early on in life. Many of the residents he works with were never exposed to the five elements of early literacy as children, and he believes that set them up for a more difficult time in school and life. Mr. Marcou shares that “many of the residents tell me they never read until they got to prison.” In his position as the correctional librarian, one challenge he faces is finding books to appeal to the lower-literacy readers. He would like to be able to give book talks on more high interest, low literacy options for the adults in the facility, which would interest all the inmates and promote discussion between readers of all levels.
Mr. Marcou explained that in Hennepin County’s Read to Me family literacy program, incarcerated parents participate in a three one-hour long programs. In the first session, six inmates join the community librarian, Mr. Marcou, and a volunteer. The first goal is to get to know the residents and find out more about their families and the age of their children. Then they begin teaching the residents about basic early literacy skills, brain development, why reading to children is important, how to make it interactive, model reading aloud, and find out if the residents have any memories of books from when they were children. Mr. Marcou notes that it is important to make the discussion feel like a casual conversation, not a lecture. He points out that many of the incarcerated were not successful in traditional school settings, and if they feel like they are being lectured, it can turn them off to the program. In the second session, the librarian again models reading a book aloud, and then has residents model reading aloud as well, with such books as Animalia by Graeme Base. Then they talk to the residents about free library programs for families, and show the Freedom Ticket video, which highlights how library services can help with residents once they are released from incarceration: http://www.hclib.org/about/outreach/freedom-ticket#freedom-ticket-video. In the final session, the inmates pick out a book they’d like to share with their children and record it on CD. The CD and book is then mailed to the children’s caregivers, so they are able to listen and read along to a story from their incarcerated parent. In the last session, the incarcerated parent is also given a certificate for completion of the program. Mr. Marcou pointed out that in a correctional facility, certificates are important. They can be used to show a judge or a parole officer that the inmate has been using his or her time effectively while in the facility.
The Read to Me program is only one of many different literacy programs offered to the incarcerated men and women. In addition to the Read to Me program, Marcou’s other adult literacy programs are available to the entire incarcerated population. The creative writing and poetry workshops expose inmates to different forms of expression through writing. Marcou also conducts One Read programs. In those, inmates read a selected book, have small group book discussions, and then a program related to the book, such as a speaker, performer, or the author of the book.
The programs offered to the inmates are moving forward with technology; however, certain options are limited by the security rules and regulations of the Adult Correctional Facility. For the Read to Me program, Mr. Marcou is incorporating bringing iPads out to the facilities. With the iPads, the program may be able to offer video recordings of the story telling as well as the audio recording. It would also be a chance to introduce tablet and iPad skills to inmates who may not be familiar with the device. In addition, librarians and volunteers could use the iPad to reference book lists for kids, the library web page, and to emphasize the services that the library offers such as family programs and job resources. Mr. Marcou feels that the progress with technology is moving along, as the Read to Me program has gone from “cassette tapes to iPads in 8 ½ years.”
Marketing the different programs that the library offers is crucial, Mr. Marcou believes. He does “non-stop marketing in every single way that I can.” Mr. Marcou created the “Going Home” guide that goes to anyone who is leaving the facility. He uses flyers, posters, and bookmarks to advertise programs and services. “I think that no matter where you’re at in the library world, marketing is key,” Mr. Marcou says. He believes it is especially important to market to non-traditional library users, who usually do not know all of the programs that the library offers. The literacy and skills programs within the facility, such as Read to Me, are offered to residents of both the men and women’s sections, in addition to their weekly library visit.
Due to facility regulations, the volunteers Mr. Marcou uses for his programming are recruited and trained by the correctional facility itself. Fortunately, he says, the volunteers that he works with are committed to the mission of the library outreach and there has been a low turnover rate of volunteers.
While the weekly library service visits are part of the library budget, all the additional outreach programming is funded by the Friends of Hennepin County Library foundation. Mr. Marcou says he has been very fortunate to have a group that so fully supports the outreach mission of the programs offered at the correctional facility. If money was not a factor, Mr. Marcou says there are several things he’d like to do. For the basic library services, he would like to be able to go out to the correctional facilities more than once a week. The librarians usually respond to 1000 requests at their visits, so another staff member would also be a big help. For outreach programming, he’d really love to be able to offer more for the caregivers who are raising the children while the parent is incarcerated. He’d also like to do more extensive follow-up to see how residents are using what they’ve learned about the library resources and literacy after they are released.
In fact, Mr. Marcou says he’s “hard core about evaluating.” Every program he does gets evaluated. For the Read to Me program, inmates are given pre-tests and post-tests. His results have shown that “after just three conversations about literacy, participants are inspired to read to their kids and make that commitment to literacy.” (For further evaluation results, see www.danielmarcou.com under presentations/powerpoints) In addition, facilitators complete a survey, and caregivers in the home complete a survey. If the caregivers send back the survey, they receive additional books sent to them.
Mr. Marcou’s advice for new librarians is to “get to know the people you are going to serve”. He says its “best to have a conversation about what they need and want, don’t assume you know what is best for them.” In graduate school programs, Mr. Marcou would like to see classes that are teaching about serving non-traditional library users. He would recommend having a practicum or class focused on serving homebound patrons, going into homeless shelters, or visiting a correctional facility.
In order to get these types of outreach programs started, Mr. Marcou says to start by asking, “How can we serve people who aren’t coming into our library?” There needs to be motivation for this type of program, and it’s important to remember that the outreach programming they do at Hennepin County is scalable. If a library isn’t ready to take on a long-term weekly or monthly program, maybe try a “one-shot” version of the program. Perhaps do a one-time family literacy workshop before the holidays for the incarcerated adult to record and send home a book to their children as a gift. In order to work with a correctional facility, Mr. Marcou recommends you focus on ways your program could help reduce recidivism and promote public safety. According to Mr. Marcou, this type of outreach requires passion and creativity. If a local corrections facility does not want to cooperate, reach out to parole officers, who may be interested in a similar program for parolee families.
As one of the final discussion points, Mr. Marcou talked about some of the moments that challenged and inspired his idea of what a correctional librarian could accomplish. The correctional facility where he works houses short-term sentence offenders, and sometimes he sees inmates be released, only to return. He even recalled one experience when a father introduced him to his adult son; both men were serving time in the facility. “When I started being a corrections librarian, our focus was on recreational reading. And for me, six months into the job, seeing people come back [into the correctional facility] was just like a kick in the face. We’ve got to do more than bring out the latest John Grisham. Libraries were huge in my life, and I thought that they could make a difference. I think that’s the number one hardest thing about this job, seeing good people end up back inside… It’s a very tough but rewarding area of librarianship.”
My conversation with Mr. Marcou was inspirational and motivational, and I am grateful for his time. I appreciated his insight and the many ways he is reaching out beyond the library walls to impact an underserved family community.
Cottrell, Megan. 2014. "Reading on the Inside." American Libraries 45, no. 11/12: 46-49.
Hennepin County Library. 2015. "Freedom Ticket." Accessed February 16, 2015. http://www.hclib.org/about/outreach/freedom-ticket#freedom-ticket-video.
Hennepin County Library. 2015. “Outreach Services.” Accessed February 16, 2015. http://www.hclib.org/about/outreach.
Marcou, Daniel. 2015. "Hey There!" Daniel Marcou. Accessed February 17, 2015. http://www.Mr. Marcouielmarcou.com.
Marcou, Daniel. 2015. Telephone interview by author.
Wish You Well Foundation
The Wish You Well Foundation’s mission is, “Supporting family literacy in the United States by fostering and promoting the development and expansion of new and existing literacy and educational programs”.
Board meets four times per year, upon funding request the organization will be notified which meeting the request will be reviewed and funding voted on by the Board.
The Wish You Well Foundation does not fund requests for:
- Donations to individuals
- Donations for candidates of political office
- Donations for building or construction projects
- Donations for debt reduction or capital campaigns
- Donations for graduate or post-graduate research
Requests must come from an Internal Revenue Service recognized 501 (c) (3) non-profit organization, which could be satisfied through a “Friends of the Library” program. The Wish You Well Foundation requests organizations receiving donations to submit a follow up report to the Foundation no later than one year after receipt of funding. Reports should include general project outcomes and results as well as any supplemental materials such as event photographs, printed materials, newsletters, etc.
Dollar General Foundation Family Literacy Grants
Dollar General Foundation
· A qualified 501(c)(3) organization with a valid IRS tax ID
· A K-12 Private or Public School
· A College or University
· A Public Library
Family Literacy Grants provide funding to family literacy service providers. Organizations applying for funding must have the following three components:
· Adult Education Instruction
· Children's Education
· Parent and Child Together Time (PACT)
Award Max: $3,000.00
Must be in a state in which Dollar General operates and your organization must be within 20 miles of a Dollar General store. You also must not have received funding for the previous two consecutive years to be eligible for a grant this year.
THE LLCF LIBRARY GRANT PROGRAM
The Lois Lenski Covey Foundation
The Lois Lenski Covey Foundation annually awards grants to libraries and (other institutions that operate a library) for purchasing books published for young people preschool through grade 8. School libraries, non-traditional libraries operated by charitable [501(c)(3)] and other non-taxable agencies, and bookmobile programs are eligible. The Foundation provides grants to libraries or organizations that serve economically or socially at-risk children, have limited book budgets, and demonstrate real need. The library grant program provides grants for purchasing children’s fiction or non-fiction books.
School library, bookmobile, or non-traditional libraries (501(c)(3)]. Must have been in operation for at least three years. Important note: This grant no longer gives to public libraries, but will provide grants to a public library bookmobile program. Family literacy outreach through bookmobiles could satisfy the requirements of this grant, and is definitely one of my areas of interest for outreach.
Grant amount $500-3000
Grant submission deadline, May 29th, 2015.
Sparks! Ignition Grants for Libraries
February 02, 2015
$10,000 to $25,000
Up to one year
Cost Share Requirement:
No matching requirements
Libraries that fulfill the general criteria for libraries may apply. In addition, institutions of higher education, including public and nonprofit universities, are eligible. This type of grant could be used to fund an innovative family literacy outreach program.
Sparks! Ignition Grants for Libraries are a special funding opportunity within the IMLS National Leadership Grants for Libraries program. These small grants encourage libraries and archives to test and evaluate specific innovations in the ways they operate and the services they provide. Sparks Grants support the deployment, testing, and evaluation of promising and groundbreaking new tools, products, services, or organizational practices. You may propose activities or approaches that involve risk, as long as the risk is balanced by significant potential for improvement in the ways libraries and museums serve their communities.
Successful proposals will address problems, challenges, or needs of broad relevance to libraries and/or archives. A proposed project should test a specific, innovative response to the identified problem and present a plan to make the findings widely and openly accessible.
To maximize the public benefit from federal investments in these grants, the Sparks! program will fund only projects with the following characteristics:
Broad Potential Impact—You should identify a specific problem or need that is relevant to many libraries and/or archives and propose a testable and measurable solution. Proposals must demonstrate a thorough understanding of current issues and practices in the project’s focus area and discuss its potential impact within libraries and/or archives. Proposed innovations should be widely adoptable or adaptable.
Significant Innovation—The proposed solution to the identified problem must offer strong potential for non-incremental, significant advancement in the operation of libraries and/or archives. You must explain how the proposed activity differs from current practices or takes advantage of an unexplored opportunity, and the potential benefit to be gained by this innovation.
Literacy and Economics:
I chose Colorado to investigate because we just found out this month that there is a very good chance we will be transferred to Colorado this summer! So I thought I should start learning about the programs of my (most likely) future home state. There are two counties that are almost interchangeable in the poorest county category, depending on which statistics you look at: Otero County and Crowley County. In fact, many articles list them together as Otero/Crowley County. They are adjacent to each other. Another county adjacent to them, Bent County, is also one of the poorest. So this particular area in Southeast Colorado is the poorest section of the state. I focused my statistic research on Otero County.
There are literacy programs available in Otero County. They include Colorado Reads, Reach Out and Read Colorado, Head Start, and a family literacy program that I was unfamiliar with called Motheread/Fatheread Colorado. This program tries to “to augment children’s school readiness and optimize their literacy skills and ongoing success in school by helping to create a reading environment in the home, increasing the frequency and quality of being read to by parents, childcare providers and early childhood educators, who may have low literacy skills themselves” (“Motheread/Fatheread” 2010). It targets children third grade and below, in an effort to improve third grade literacy scores in particular.
The literacy rates in Otero County were worse than the state rate: 16% vs 10% lack basic literacy skills. Of the programs I found, most all were targeted toward Emergent and Family literacy, I did not find many Adult Literacy program, most of the ones I found were volunteer run programs sponsored by local churches or Catholic Charities. Otero County does have a 40% Hispanic population, so ESL classes may be part of the Adult Literacy programs offered.
Interestingly, the high school graduation rate is at 75.7%, which is actually higher than the overall state rate of 74%. So the residents of Otero County are finishing high school at a positive rate; however, the rate of residents with a Bachelor’s degree or higher is only 15.4%. Overall, the state of Colorado has 37% of people with a Bachelor degree or higher. So most of the residents of Otero County are not continuing on with higher education. The county does have Otero Junior College, which is a two-year program that offers certification programs for entry-level positions or is meant to help students to transfer into a four-year University degree plan.
It was very interesting to examine the poverty issue and how it affects the state of Colorado, especially since I’m unfamiliar with the area. I was glad to see some Family Literacy programs in the state, but as with poor counties throughout the country, it seems many more are needed.
Child Development Services: Head Start. (2015). Retrieved February 16, 2015, from http://cds.ojc.edu/headstart.html
Colorado Association of Libraries. (2015). Retrieved February 16, 2015, from http://www.cal-webs.org
Literacy Observation 1: Traditional Family Literacy Program
For my traditional Family Literacy Program observation, I attended the Family Storytime at the George Memorial Branch of the Fort Bend County Library system. The program is held on Saturday mornings at 10 am, and is advertised on the library calendar as a Family Storytime with stories and activities for the whole family.
The librarian, Blair Greene, began by welcoming us to the new puppet theater program room designed for smaller programs. Usually the weekday storytime programs are held in the main meeting room, but demands for space prompted the Youth Department to revitalize a smaller program space to offer the library more room options for programming.
The theme of the storytime was “Sweet Stuff”. The librarian announced at the beginning of the program that because we were in a new room, the new projector was not working yet, so none of the songs or rhymes would be able to be displayed on the screen. She did play music from a laptop for the action songs.
There were 14 children, ranging in ages from 5 months to 9 years, and 8 adults in attendance. Ms. Greene reminded us of the storytime rules, which included to silence cell phones and encouraged parents to participate with their children.
The program began with a morning stretching warm-up, followed by the “Shake Your Sillies Out” song. After this, the librarian highlighted the literacy skill focus of the day, which was Play. She encouraged parents to play word games with their children when out at the grocery store, such as “bring me the fruit that begins with the letter B.”
The first book of the storytime was a big book version of If You Give a Pig a Pancake by Laura Numeroff and Felicia Bond. Next, we did a flannel board action rhyme where we counted ice cream cones. Ms. Greene encouraged parents to play number games with their kids as well. Following the flannel board was an action rhyme about bananas. Since Ms. Greene didn’t have the capabilities to show the words on the screen, she modeled repeating the rhyme back to her. This was very effective for this age group in particular, since many of toddlers and preschoolers could not have read the screen even if it was available, and the parents could also still follow along by repeating.
The second book was A Birthday for Cow written and illustrated Jan Thomas. Ms. Greene asked the children questions about the story as she read. Following that, the kids were able to pick out egg shakers for the next action song. Parents were encouraged to get an egg shaker as well. We then did a repeat action song called “We’re going to the market”. The final story was The Cow Loves Cookies by Karma Wilson and Marcellus Hall, followed by a repeat action rhyme “I’m a Little Apple.”
Next it was time for the puppet show. Ms. Greene was joined by another librarian for a version of “Who Took the Cookies From the Cookie Jar.” We then did a craft, coloring an ice cream cone and gluing it together. At the end, the kids got a hand stamp for participating.
Since this was a family storytime, I was curious how it would compare to the other weekday storytimes I have attended. One thing I noticed was that every parent participated. Sometimes in other storytimes, parents sit along the back wall and do not necessarily take part, so I was really glad to see such a high level of involvement with the program. Also, there were more Dads (4 out of the 8 adults) than I usually see at the regular storytime, which was nice as well. One unique aspect about the Fort Bend County Library system is the diversity of participants at its programming, and we had a diverse mix of ethnicities attending the family storytime as well.
To evaluate the program, the librarian did head counts using a handheld clicker of the number of adults and children attending. The number of guests was then recorded in a binder, where attendance is tracked for all programs the library offers. That was the only evaluation tool used for this particular storytime.
There were no books on display in the program room for parents or children to look through or check out, and I thought that would have been a nice addition to highlight the print literacy aspect of the storytime. Usually most of the library programs I’ve attended at George Memorial in the past have both a librarian and an assistant. Ms. Greene was without an assistant until the puppet show, and it would have been useful if she would have had someone to help her lead the songs and rhymes. The craft was simplistic, but perhaps that was to account for the fact that this storytime has different ranges in ages. Most of the 14 children were toddlers or preschoolers, but there were four elementary-aged kids as well.
Ms. Greene did highlight early literacy skills to the parents, which she said are usually included on one of the slides, and would have been seen if the projector had been working. Many of the attendees regularly attended this particular family program and were familiar with the format. Ms. Greene also highlighted upcoming programs at the library, including a Dragon Dancing event the following day in recognition of Chinese New Year. Overall, it was a straightforward and traditional family storytime program, and the parents and children seemed satisfied and had a good time.
Program Evaluation #2
For my non-traditional library evaluation, I evaluated a new weeklong program at the University Branch of the Fort Bend County Library system, Teddy Bear Camp. The program was held at the same time as local schools’ spring break, March 9 - March 14th.
For the program, children of all ages were invited to bring one of their stuffed animals for a week of overnight camp at the library. Starting on Monday, the children could bring their stuffed animal to the Youth Services desk for check-in. This included creating a tag for each animal with the animal’s name, the child’s name, the parent’s name, an email address, and phone number. Part of the tag went home with the child, part was filed in a Camper Info box, and another part of the tag was tied with yarn around the stuffed animal for identification. The kids were then able to put the stuffed animals on the camp bus (a cart decorated like a bus - with, you guessed it, the Pigeon driving it). Once the “camper” was situated, the librarian wheeled the camper back to the library workroom. The camp started on Monday, but librarians accepted campers to join the program all week.
Each day, Miss Wendy, the camp counselor, would email the families the “postcards from camp”, which were pictures of the activities that the campers had done each day at the library. At the end of the week, the kids were invited to a party in the library’s small gathering room to pick up their camper. At the pick-up, the children and parents filled out an evaluation form, picked up their camper, signed a photo release if they were willing, had their picture taken with their camper, and received a certificate. They also were treated to snacks of Teddy Grahams, Smores snacks, or pretzel sticks in little bags that they could take home with them. A slide show of all the pictures and activities of the campers played on the wall during the pick-up party.
According to the youth librarians, the purpose of the program was to help families think about the library as a fun place to go over spring break. Families made a special trip to the library at least twice that week for the program, once to drop off the camper and another to pick them up. When the librarians checked in the campers, they made sure to mention the other regularly scheduled programs going on that week in the library, including story times and a school-age craft time. The librarians also created a special camp display, featuring books about camping that were available for checkout. It was also a way to highlight all the different activities and resources available at the library using fun pictures.
Advertising for the program was done through the library’s website, which had a list of spring break programs at the county’s different branches. There was also a display in the Youth Programs department advertising the program. At first, the librarians were concerned that they did not have enough advertising and wondered how many people would participate in the program. However, they ended up getting 75 “campers” at the program by week’s end, which was more than they expected.
The program presented a few challenges that the counselors had not anticipated. The large number of campers led to more of a time commitment to the program than originally planned by the librarians. Animals were stored in large boxes in the locked storage closet in the Youth Workroom. Each morning, before the library opened, two or three of the youth services librarians/paraprofessionals would arrive and set the stage for the pictures. With more than 70 stuffed animals, the staging and setup/takedown process took longer than expected. In addition, one of the stuffed animals started losing its stuffing due to a loose seam. The librarians did not believe that it had happened while they were responsible for the animal, as it was most likely a previous tear. However, Wendy decided to sew a few stitches in to assure that the animal didn’t lose anymore of its stuffing. She then wrapped the animal with a little bandage, and attached a note saying the camper had to visit the camp nurse, but was all fixed up. Fortunately in this situation, the parent and child were grateful for the extra attention to the animal. However, the librarians discussed the fact that not all parents may be as understanding in the future. They recommended that the librarian checking in the stuffed animal to camp give it a quick lookover to make sure there is not any damage. If there is, they suggested showing the parent and deciding then if they want to librarian to repair it if possible, or perhaps recommend bringing a different stuffed animal to the camp. Also, a week after the program, there were still 7 “campers” who had not yet been picked up.
To evaluate the program, the librarians took a “head count” of the campers, which ended up being 75 people registered for the program. At the camper pick up party, they also had an evaluation form. The form asked on how the participant learned about the program (website, staff, display, word of mouth, other) and any comments or suggestions about the program. According to the librarians, many patrons shared feedback both verbally and on the form about how much they enjoyed the program. One family had even created a scrapbook of the picture postcards. The Youth Services Director of the library system was so impressed by the program that she encouraged the librarians to submit the idea to a professional library magazine or journal. Overall, especially for a first-time program, it was a fun and unique idea enjoyed by many families.
Literacy Observation #3 - Seminar
For my seminar observation, I watched a webinar hosted by Global Conversations in Literacy Research (GCLR). The purpose of GCLR is to host an “online series of one-hour web seminars that feature leading and internationally-recognized scholars in the field of literacy” (GCLR 2010). The title of the lecture was “The Impact of Family on Literacy Development: Convergence, Controversy, and Instructional Implications” and it was presented by Dr. Patricia Edwards of Michigan State University and Dr. Susan Piazza of Western Michigan University. Both women have an extensive background in family literacy. The lecture was originally presented as a live webinar on February 17, 2013, and published online on February 24, 2014.
I chose this webinar because of my focus on Family Literacy and outreach programs. According to the description of the lecture, the speakers would “discuss the importance of the family in the literacy support of children's learning… Even though there is general agreement within the research community regarding the importance of the family, there is disagreement among researchers about how to work with families” (Edwards and Piazza 2013). Since I would like to work directly with families in regards to literacy, I thought it would be advantageous to learn different types of approaches to collaborating with families.
The lecture began with an introduction of the presenters. The goal of the lecture was to present a literature study of the various methods that have historically been used to work with family literacy programs. The seminar featured slides that the audience could view while the professors spoke. The lecturers alternated covering material that was featured on the slides. Dr. Edwards began by discussing theories based on Accommodation. Several studies were highlighted as supporting this type of interaction, which focuses on the concept that literacy begins in homes, rather than schools. The lecturers also accompanied the slides with audio clips from children, parents, and teachers throughout the seminar.
The next area of interaction was based on Incorporation. In this method, the focus is on learning from the families themselves to create curriculum and programming from multiple ethnic perspectives. The third strategy was Adaption. Of the three methods, Edwards said this strategy has met with the most controversy, due to its focus on helping other cultures adapt to the practices of their new country, without as much attention on the country of origin.
Of all the programs they researched, Edwards and Piazza felt one program successfully combined the three theories. They recommended the program Parents as Literacy Supporters (PALS) and PALS in Immigrant Communities (IPALS), developed by Dr. Jim Anderson and Fiona Morrison. Piazza said she was impressed with “how respectful and responsive this program is to the social and cultural context of each community they work in. Yet it seems that most families do seek out the knowledge and skills needed to support their children in the new country” (Edwards and Piazza 2013).
As a result of their research, Edwards and Piazza recommended a convergence of all three theories to one integrated model of approach toward family literacy. They call this model Culturally Responsive Family Engagement, and say it combines the best aspects of the original three strategies. The professors then wrapped up the lecture by answering two questions that had been asked during the seminar in the online chat box.
For evaluation methods of the seminar, the GCLR team took several approaches. At the beginning of the lecture, they encouraged participants to “Like” them on Facebook. They also asked participants to highlight on an interactive world map where they were geographically. There was also a chat box where people participants could ask questions and post comments during the live seminar. The video of the lecture was later posted online, which offered another method of evaluation. Through YouTube, they could track the number of views of the lecture, as well as the number of people who followed their YouTube channel. In addition, people who accessed the archived webinars through the GCLR website were asked to participate in a survey regarding their web practices and access to online seminars.
Overall, I found the research and information in this seminar interesting. I had not considered all the different research in the area of interacting with families for literacy programming. The lecture was academic in nature, and while it held my interest, it had a more limited audience appeal. The biggest detractors for the seminar were the technical difficulties. Several times during the seminar, the presenters had microphone and video difficulties. It was very difficult to hear the audio clips, and required going back and updating settings on my computer. That was disappointing, because I felt those offered the real-life, and less clinical, perspective that the presentation was missing. Despite the technical difficulties, I will be interested in checking out the other offerings by GCLR, since I believe there will be many topics that will interest me in the field of literacy.
Edwards, Patricia & Piazza, Susan. (2013). “The Impact of Family on Literacy Development: Convergence, controversy, and instructional implications”. You Tube. Posted by Global Conversations in Literacy Research Seminar Series. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hodO0kn8Kik
Global Conversations in Literacy Research - GCLR. (2010). “Welcome to Global Conversations in Literacy Research”. https://globalconversationsinliteracy.wordpress.com