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A Resource for Libraries

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Kids and their parents at the library Parents playing peek-a-boo A parent reading a book with a child Kid playing at the library


Libraries are creating programs and experiences that expand and deepen the abilities of our youngest learners, their families, and caregivers. They offer programs that foster the interest-driven and project-based learning that complements the educational standards emphasized and required in school. But they also offer programs that inspire creativity, nurture self-directed exploration, and ignite the imagination through arts based programming that is often missing in academic settings, despite the mounting evidence of its role in student achievement.

As important facilitators of learning, librarians are working with families and caregivers to transform library visits into "teachable moments" that connect children's experience to deeper learning and knowledge. They are anchoring practices in research and partnering with other community service providers to provide family-focused, high-quality, informal learning opportunities.

In turn, communities are beginning to recognize libraries as key components of their early learning infrastructure, and school leaders are recognizing that engaging libraries can improve children's outcomes in school.

In the most recent California state survey (2012), public libraries offered more than 299,000 programs to the public. The majority of these programs (62.3% or 186,577) were designed for children aged 11 and younger. Attendance at children's programs grew to more than 6 million in FY2012.

Recent promising ELF program examples include:

Night of a Thousand Inventions – Contra Costa County Library

VIDEO: Night of 1000 Inventions 2013 promo (3:15)

Although this innovative library event at the Pleasant Hill branch was not limited to just young children, it's all inclusive family focus and self-directed, activities that encouraged children of all ages to explore their own imaginations and inventiveness – epitomizes many of the ELF early learning goals and values.

The Big Play Date – San Francisco Public Library

The Big Play Date

This every Saturday event during the month of April 2014 provided unique and simple play activities throughout the city's neighborhood branch libraries. Play stations that promoted sensory, auditory and spatial explorations were set up to encourage language skills as well as social and emotional development. Geared for children ages 3 and up and their adult caregivers. From cardboard tunnels, shredded newspaper filled wading pools and bubbles – these easy to re-create at home activities – afforded families a whole new way to experience their library...through play and family networking.

Family Place Parent/Child Workshops – County of Los Angeles

Kids and adults playing in the library

Parent/Child workshops are one component of the Family Place Library™ model of service. This unique five-week program is designed specifically for toddlers and their parents and caregivers. The workshops feature local professionals, such as nutritionists, speech and language therapists and child development experts. These experts serve as resources for parents in an informal setting, where parents are also encouraged to network among themselves and engage in developmentally appropriate play activities with their children.