Library Services from Birth to Five

Feb 2015 | 224pp

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Library Services from Birth to Five
Delivering the best start

Edited by Carolynn Rankin and Avril Brock

Following on from their groundbreaking first book, Delivering the Best Start, Rankin and Brock return to the subject of pre-school and early years library provision with contributions and case studies from innovators and experts around the world.

There is a growing awareness of the significance of the first five years of life for intellectual, social and emotional development and early intervention is of political interest. This book provides knowledge and understanding about early language and literacy development and how young children become successful through enjoyable and meaningful experiences.

Coverage includes:

  • an examination of the key role of library practitioners who work with young children 
  • the importance of effective interdisciplinary teamwork for professionals working with the early years
  • a focus on involving parents and carers and valuing their culture, language, heritage and community
  • practical guidance given on setting up and running pre-school library services
  • contributions and case studies from experts around the world.

Readership: This book will be useful reading for early years professionals and librarians, those responsible for commissioning and delivering pre-school library services, students of library and information studies or childhood studies and practitioners undertaking practical early years qualifications.

1. Take them to the library: the pathway of opportunity - Carolynn Rankin and Avril Brock
2. What you need to know about promoting early reading with young children from birth to five - Avril Brock and Carolynn Rankin
3. City of Literature … it all starts with ABCD! The City of Melbourne and the Abecedarian Approach - Paula Kelly
4. Transforming practice through research: evaluating the Better Beginnings family literacy programme - Caroline Barratt-Pugh and Nola Allen
5. People and partnerships, skills and knowledge - Carolynn Rankin and Avril Brock
6. Resources for early years libraries: books, toys and other delights - Carolynn Rankin and Avril Brock
7. Using digital media - Francesca de Freitas and Tess Prendergast
8. Using play to enhance early years literacy in babies and toddlers: ‘Read, Play and Grow’ at Brooklyn Public Library - Rachel Payne
9. Inclusive early literacy - Tess Prendergast
10. Music and rhyme-time sessions for the under-fives - Shelley Bullas and Ben Lawrence
11. Part 1:  Reaching your audience: the librarian’s role - Carolynn Rankin and Avril Brock
      Part 2: Country case studies 
12. Successful library activities for the early years and ways to promote books effectively - Anne Harding
13. Designing family-friendly libraries for the early years - Carolynn Rankin and Rachel Van Riel
14. Planning: organizing projects and money matters in the early years library - Carolynn Rankin

"Language and literacy development are the primary focus of this textbook edited by Rankin (visiting Fellow, Leeds Beckett Univ.; Library Services for Children and Young People) and Brock (education, Leeds Metropolitan Univ.). Case studies of programs aimed at newborn through five-year-old children are supplemented by the theory and research that back the foundations of the library programs....Other authors contributed to this book, providing other professional views of the importance of teamwork among librarians, educators, parents, and caregivers. Giving value to local culture, language, and heritage is stressed... recommended for educators and students in an academic setting."
- Library Journal

Avril Brock has written several books in partnership with Carolynn Rankin on language, literacy and library services. She has recently published The Early Years Reflective Practice Handbook for early childhood educators. Avril has also written books and journal articles on play, professionalism, bilingualism and early language development. She has worked in higher education since 1989 at Bradford College and Leeds Metropolitan University, after having been a deputy head, primary and early years teacher in West Yorkshire, often working with linguistically diverse children. Avril’s PhD longitudinal research elicited early years educators’ thinking about their professionalism and this resulted in a typology of professionalism which has been developed across the early years interdisciplinary team. She has been involved in interdisciplinary partnerships with colleagues in West Yorkshire, Europe and the USA.

Carolynn Rankin is currently a Visiting Fellow in the Faculty of Arts, Environment, and Technology at Leeds Metropolitan University. Carolynn worked as an information management specialist for 20 years before moving into professional education in 2000. Carolynn has interdisciplinary research interests, exploring the connections between civil society, social justice, and access to literacy and learning via libraries. Her current research projects include a longitudinal evaluation of the development of the Sister Libraries programme for the International Federation of Library Associations (IFLA). Carolynn’s professional activities include the role of External Examiner for the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals (CILIP) Professional Registration Board, and Assessor for CILIP Accreditation for Learning Providers. She is a member of the IFLA Standing Committee Library Theory and Research Section.



Nola Allen has worked for 30 years in the library and education sectors, specializing in services for children and families

Caroline Barratt-Pugh, Professor and Director of the Centre for Research in Early Childhood Education, Edith Cowan University (ECU), Western Australia (WA)

Shelley Bullas co-ordinates the Children and Young People’s Library Service for Calderdale Metropolitan Borough Council, West Yorkshire

Francesca de Freitas, Children’s Librarian, Vancouver Public Library

Anne Harding, independent trainer specializing in children and young people’s reading and children’s and school libraries

Paula Kelly, City of Melbourne’s Library Service Manager

Ben Lawrence, Early Years Librarian and Bookstart Coordinator, Calderdale

Rachel Payne, co-ordinator of early childhood services, Brooklyn Public Library

Tess Prendergast, children’s librarian, completing a PhD in early literacy, University of British Columbia, Vancouver

Rachel van Riel, Director, Opening the Book

1. Take them to the library: the pathway of opportunity - Carolynn Rankin and Avril Brock

The opening chapter, written by the editors, Carolynn Rankin and Avril Brock, sets the scene by discussing how encouraging young children and their families to access a library with all its resources can provide a great foundation for developing early literacy. Children’s services are receiving a high profile today, as policy makers are concerned about effective education and the level of reading skills in contemporary society. We make the case that professional intervention provided by the librarian in supporting the development of communication, language and literacy is much more than just the ‘telling of stories’, as access is provided to resources that encourage emergent literacy and parents and carers are encouraged to play an active part in the learning process. Library practitioners are at the forefront of promoting children’s rights, helping to give young users the best start in life and disseminating key messages about the importance of early literacy. We discuss how the librarian provides one of the universal services which potentially offers the ‘pathway of opportunity’ for young children. The role of the librarian is therefore very important in drawing families into the world of literacy and all that it can offer, but we note that there are issues to consider around professional and political recognition and the perceived value of this intervention.

The evidence suggests that we should also be paying attention to the very structure and nature of the places we are creating. Although it is a contested concept, we argue that the library has a role in helping to stimulate social capital at the individual or micro level, providing support for families and parenting. It has been proposed that libraries can help to build social capital by providing a safe place to meet, socialize and relax. Governments have been recognizing the crucial importance of understanding these inter- and intragenerational relationships and transmission processes. This has implications for the role of the librarian in supporting family learning and providing a place for intergenerational encounters. The chapter introduces the role of the public library in offering an environment where young children and their families can gain a sense of belonging to the community through using a shared resource and where they are made welcome in a community space that celebrates diversity.

The first chapter concludes by looking at the politics of the situation. Libraries can change children’s lives, but, despite compelling evidence about the value and impact of library services, many are currently under threat, due to funding cuts in public services; public libraries are in the spotlight as local authorities make decisions about what can and cannot be provided through the public purse. We argue that the job of the early years librarian and the children’s librarian is undervalued where the role is not understood. In this chapter we hope we have shown that this is not a simplistic perception, but that what is done in the early years library does indeed make a difference to social capital, educational achievement and future life chances, as well as an to enjoyment of reading and of being literate in today’s fast-moving world.

2. What you need to know about promoting early reading with young children from birth to five - Avril Brock and Carolynn Rankin

In Chapter 2 Avril Brock and Carolynn Rankin discuss ‘What you need to know about promoting early reading with young children.’ There is much more to reading than just decoding symbols and stringing words together to make sense. Children need to become critical readers and thinkers, and it is important for librarians to gain an understanding of the reading process and the skills of reading in the 21st century. We highlight some of the underpinning knowledge about early literacy, early language acquisition and the stages of language development. In order to become competent and active readers and writers, children need a multitude of experiences of oral language, of talking, listening, storying, rhyming, reading and singing. These are the building blocks of literacy and make a difference as to how quickly and easily they acquire reading and writing. Until recently, literacy was seen primarily as reading and writing, and children were not thought to be ready to learn to read or write before the ages of 6 or 7. However, the principles behind the concept of ‘emergent literacy’ are that literacy begins at birth and is a social process. This new knowledge about child development and emergent literacy has highlighted the needs of babies and toddlers and this can be incorporated into providing appropriate services for young children and their families. In discussing what practitioners need to know about young children, practical guidance is provided for the librarian to develop strategies for promoting early reading skills.

3. City of Literature … it all starts with ABCD! The City of Melbourne and the Abecedarian Approach - Paula Kelly

Chapter 3 provides a glimpse of the three-year intervention programme planned by the City of Melbourne and due to commence in 2015. Librarian Paula Kelly writes about ‘City of literature… it all starts with ABCD! The City of Melbourne and the Abecedarian Approach’. This chapter discusses the development of the City of Melbourne’s Early Literacy Strategy, which intentionally looks at developing the parenting practices of parents as their child’s first teachers. It aims to improve parent–child interactions and subsequent early language development and is framed by the Abecedarian Approach, which focuses on an interventionist approach that promotes learning and positive educational and social outcomes for children who begin life ‘at risk’. The investment in the proposed programme is significant as a cross-council commitment to the City’s focus on early literacy and early intervention. Evaluation is planned, and the programme delivery and its impact will be measured.

4. Transforming practice through research: evaluating the Better Beginnings family literacy programme - Caroline Barratt-Pugh and Nola Allen

We stay in Australia and with the theme of research evidence for Chapter 4, where Caroline Barratt-Pugh and Nola Allen provide an overview of the Better Beginnings Family Literacy Program, an initiative of the State Library of Western Australia based on the UK’s Bookstart. The authors describe how, since its launch in 2005 to the present time, Better Beginnings, has grown to be one of the most extensive and successful family literacy programmes in Australia. Delivered through public libraries and community health centres throughout Western Australia, this universal programme is designed to provide positive early literacy experiences for all families with young children aged from birth to three.

A significant aspect of this is that Edith Cowan University has conducted an independent, longitudinal evaluation of the programme since its inception, which has been invaluable to the programme’s sustainability and has contributed to the evidence base that demonstrates the key role that libraries can and do play in literacy development. Barratt-Pugh and Allen make the case that the Better Beginnings programme, founded on international research,  has transformed theory into practice.

5. People and partnerships, skills and knowledge - Carolynn Rankin and Avril Brock

In Chapter 5 the editors, Carolynn Rankin and Avril Brock, focus on ‘People and partnerships, skills and knowledge’, addressing the role of professionals in the interdisciplinary work involved in meeting the varied needs of the local community. The chapter is particularly concerned with the roles of librarians and other early years specialists as they seek to develop effective partnerships across the disciplines as well as to foster partnerships with parents and carers. Partnership working is seen as an important strategy for tackling complex issues such as social inclusion and supporting the lifelong learning agenda. The chapter includes a discussion on community profiles, which form the basis on which to identify community needs for library services and facilities. The authors consider understanding the information needs of parents, and opportunities for involving fathers and grandparents.

6. Resources for early years libraries: books, toys and other delights - Carolynn Rankin and Avril Brock

Chapter 6, ‘Resources for early years libraries: books, toys and other delights’, by Carolynn Rankin and Avril Brock, starts by considering the underlying principles and requirements of collection development. Library authorities can take a number of different approaches to the procurement and supply of books and other resources and we look in detail at collection development in the early years library using picture books as the core of the collection. The chapter illustrates why early years librarians need to have knowledge of diverse resources such as treasure baskets, toy libraries, storysacks and Bookstart packs. We discuss how to select books that are appropriate for babies and young children, girls and boys, additional-language learners and children with special educational needs, not forgetting the needs of their parents. The chapter points readers in the direction of sources of information on a range of materials for early years stock selection.

7. Using digital media - Francesca de Freitas and Tess Prendergast

Francesca de Freitas and Tess Prendergast, from Vancouver Public Library in Canada, are innovators. In Chapter 7, ‘Using digital media’, they focus specifically on the role of early years library work in the digital age and open up a topic of professional debate. The wide availability of digital technology means that more and more children across a range of socio-economic and cultural groups now have access to digital tools in their daily lives with their families. The authors pose the questions how and why does this concern early years library staff?

In particular, tablet computers such as iPads and the applications (apps) that are designed to run on them represent an area of particular promise for early years libraries. Many of these apps are ‘book based’ and represent a natural place for early years library collections to jump into the digital realm. This chapter focuses on approaches to learning about tablets and apps and how they might be incorporated into your existing early years work in libraries. The authors are both librarians and they set the scene in the light of underpinning research and the importance of modelling early literacy activities using digital media. They present a case study at Vancouver Public Library, including practical advice on using apps in family story time sessions.

8. Using play to enhance early years literacy in babies and toddlers: ‘Read, Play and Grow’ at Brooklyn Public Library - Rachel Payne

Chapter 8 turns the focus to the importance of play in the library. Rachel Payne describes how Brooklyn Public Library has been exploring play activities that get parents talking with their little ones. Read, Play, Grow!, is an early literacy curriculum of simple play activities using everyday household objects and materials. In this chapter, Payne gives an outline of the curriculum and includes suggested play activities and practical tips for setting up ‘play stations’ in traditional story-time programmes or in full-scale play events. She discusses the ages and stages of play for little ones and explains what play looks like for babies and toddlers. For the past three years, the annual Big Brooklyn Playdate has been hosted by the Central Library, and each time, over 100 babies and toddlers (and their parents or caregivers) have come out to play. Three ‘zones’ at the playdate direct the children to appropriate areas based on their development. Rachel makes the point that, since libraries are often the first cultural and educational institutions where the very young can fully participate, we are uniquely positioned to support parents in these first interactions.

She proposes redirecting children’s energy to more appropriate play in the library where small-scale, temporary play experiences can be created in multipurpose programme rooms and even in the children’s library. A key message is that we need to see playtime as a core component of our programmes, not an afterthought. (* Additional note from the editors: if you want to know the secrets of how to run a ‘No Mess Finger Painting’ session, we can recommend this chapter!)

9. Inclusive early literacy - Tess Prendergast

In Chapter 9 Tess Prendergast lays a firm foundation for helping early years librarians consider their role in the provision of inclusive early literacy resources for children with disabilities. The terms ‘inclusive’ and ‘inclusion’ in early childhood settings are thoroughly explored, with a definition and illustrative examples which help towards an understanding of what is meant by the term ‘inclusive early literacy’. Prendergast argues that in order to best meet the needs of all children, including those with developmental disabilities, the public library’s early literacy resource provisions should include a range of intentionally designed inclusive approaches. She challenges us as readers to expand our conception of what constitutes early childhood literacy.

Prendergast identifies that there is currently a distinct lack of library studies that deal with the needs of children with disabilities and how to adapt early literacy resources to effectively meet their needs. This chapter aims to partially fill that gap, while acknowledging the critical need for further research about libraries, early literacy and children with disabilities. Inclusive early literacy involves anticipating, planning and preparing for the participation of children with diverse development and ensuring that they are provided with opportunities to experience and learn alongside their age peers. The chapter describes some critical features of inclusive story times and, alongside challenges to conventional wisdom , offers some recommendations for adapting programmes to meet the needs of diverse young children, including those with developmental disabilities.

10. Music and rhyme-time sessions for the under-fives - Shelley Bullas and Ben Lawrence

Chapter 10 is written by two children’s librarians who are also very talented musicians in their own right. Shelly Bullas and Ben Lawrence celebrate the fact that singing and rhyme-time sessions are perfectly placed in the local library; singing helps to develop speech, language and communication skills as well as fine and gross motor skills. It also enriches the family unit by boosting emotional and social well-being. Their chapter on ‘Music and rhyme-time sessions for the under-fives’ focuses on the practical aspects of running singing sessions in public libraries for young children and their parents and carers. The authors recognize that their readers may include library assistants, librarians, chief librarians, managers, early years professionals and students, and because of the wide-ranging audience they combine a case study with a step-by-step how-to guide. They want to empower readers to feel confident about delivering high-quality sessions and they also hope to inspire complete beginners.

The way Bullas and Lawrence plan and deliver their rhyme sessions is directly informed by the writings and philosophical approach to music education of the Hungarian composer Zoltán Kodály. It is a methodical and sequential approach to music education, and in the early years has a huge emphasis on musical play. They provide detailed practical guidance on ‘planning and preparing your session’, and include reassuring sections on ‘encouraging participation’ and how to deal with ‘what if it goes horribly wrong?’ Choosing appropriate material is essential for these sessions and an extensive list of recommended songs and rhyme Books and other resources (including parachutes, Lycra and puppets!) is provided at the end of the chapter.

11. Part 1:  Reaching your audience: the librarian’s role - Carolynn Rankin and Avril Brock

Chapter 11 is arranged in two parts. In Part 1, ‘Reaching your audience: the librarian’s role’, authors Carolynn Rankin and Avril Brock look at how practitioners can provide opportunities for young children and their families to enjoy literacy and language development activities together. Many early years librarians tell stories at sessions, providing entertainment and enlightenment for their local community. Acknowledging the skills required to effectively connect and engage with a family audience, the authors offer practical guidance for the librarian as performer, including strategies for sharing stories with children and voice-projection and performance skills. The chapter also includes a discussion on using treasure baskets with babies, using picture books to help to build vocabulary and telling stories in other languages to support the bilingual learner. Continuing the theme of partnerships, three examples of outreach work are provided, looking at Traveller families, teenage fathers and culturally diverse communities. Partnerships are a key aspect of campaigns and promotional schemes, and some UK-based initiatives are discussed.

Part 2: Country case studies 

Early years library provision is also delivered by partnerships in other parts of the world. There are a wealth of initiatives in operation, both in the UK and overseas, and Part 2 of the chapter presents case studies of excellent practice from the USA, Australia, Croatia, Denmark, Italy, Northern Ireland, Russia and Sweden.

12. Successful library activities for the early years and ways to promote books effectively - Anne Harding

Early years activities in libraries and, of course, library books can play a huge role in supporting babies’ and young children’s learning and development. Chapter 12 considers that role and identifies successful library activities and book promotion for under-fives.

Anne Harding, the author, is an experienced independent trainer specializing in children’s and young people’s reading and children’s and school libraries. Well-planned sessions and well-chosen books deliver enormous benefits to children and families and Anne discusses the key ingredients of successful early years provision. She challenges practitioners to consider how early years-friendly the library feels to the first-time visitor. Planning and practicalities are discussed, with a message that early years activities should feel informal, but meticulous planning is vital in order to achieve this. The chapter includes guidance on the types of books that work well for reading to groups of babies and young children.

13. Designing family-friendly libraries for the early years - Carolynn Rankin and Rachel Van Riel

Chapter 13 considers what makes for a good design in providing library spaces for babies and young children and their families. Choosing, sharing and expressing views on books all start long before children can read, and the challenges and opportunities relating to library-space design for the birth-to-five age range are discussed by Carolynn Rankin and Rachel Van Riel, the latter an experienced library designer. The premise in this chapter is that librarians should be concerned about architecture and design and take an active interest in the place and space in which services are delivered to the user community. The role of the library building as a community space is considered, but there is recognition that the personal development needs of different age groups can cause conflicts in terms of location and design. The authors suggest issues to consider in planning the use of space, designing to create boundaries, dealing with noise and book displays for different age groups. Practical guidance is provided on choosing colour schemes, furniture and equipment, carpets and soft furnishings.

14. Planning: organizing projects and money matters in the early years library - Carolynn Rankin

The theme in Chapter 14, the final chapter, is planning, and Carolynn Rankin discusses some of the issues associated with planning in organizations and multidisciplinary teams. Financial planning is discussed as an important means of allocating resources to enable development. Practical aspects of project planning are also covered, as librarians may have opportunities to set up schemes and initiatives, often in partnership work. Impact and evaluation are also discussed, as these are important stages in the planning cycle for any project or activity. The final sections look at planning at the individual level, and Carolynn discusses aspects of continuous professional development and developing skills for the reflective practitioner.

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