Libraries Boldly Claim Early Literacy

Boldness is not something that public libraries are known for. William Hutchison Murray said ‘Boldness has genius, power and magic in it. Begin it now’. And Libraries need to be bold, confident and present for those issues of prominence in their communities.

One crucial area that public libraries need to boldly state their claim in being expert in is Early Literacy and Family Literacy. Public libraries are ideally positioned to own the ‘Every child a reader’ space working with parents and children under 8 years old.

Libraries can own and drive early literacy outcomes in their communities. By boldly stating this claim library staff can intentionally become very professional in this space. It’s not just about delivering excellent storytime sessions. It is about intentionally improving parental skills around vocabulary, literacy and early childhood development for under eights. All activities, storytime sessions and parent kits should be designed with this in mind. Being this intentional then drives Library staff learning and skill levels as they seek to understand the pedagogy of the early literacies for maximum impact. With the stated outcome that local parents be equipped with the skills, resources and confidence to prepare their children for school.

No, we do not need to do this alone. An important role for public libraries is one as a facilitator in their community. To bring together in partnership all the often competing service providers in early literacy to ensure the best outcome for all, including those hard to reach families is a role that public libraries are ideally placed to undertake.

To do this we need to have a policy framework to work towards that makes the claim, sets out goals and measures them. When we measure the whole impact made by public libraries in the early literacy space, instead of one library on its own, it is impressive. Once we have this amalgamated data boldly shout about it to all who have funds. This has worked for Western Australia with their Better Beginnings program[1] and in Queensland with the Best Start program[2], both attracting millions of dollars of Government funding and Corporate sponsorship over a number of years. One such policy framework is Queensland public libraries’ Libraries for Literacy: every day every way 2015–2018. http://www.plconnect.slq.qld.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0010/281467/Libraries-for-Literacy-Framework-2015-2018.pdf

Being intentional in this early literacy also means our policies and procedures must support this commitment. If we hesitate or draw back from our stated claim through our formal actions and policies no amount of advocacy will be believed. Public libraries cannot say one thing and do another. So, if as libraries, we are committed to ‘Every child a reader’ we need to purposefully eliminate barriers for children accessing the library. No child should ever be turned away even if they are not a member, even if we think the book will not come back, even if their parent is not with them, even if they cannot read.

So I repeat ‘Boldness has genius, power and magic in it. Begin it now.’ What will you be bold about today?

[1] Better Beginnings http://www.better-beginnings.com.au/ accessed 19/03/2015

[2] Best Start: a family literacy initiative for Queensland http://www.slq.qld.gov.au/whats-on/programs/best-start-queensland accessed 19/05/2015

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Librarian, interested in libraries, digital disruption, startups, Australian politics

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