Early Childhood Literacy Class Coming Fall 2014

CIRI Blog

Published: February 11, 2014 by Beth Wrenn-Estes

Beth Wrenn-Estes

It’s interesting what opportunities come my way from my teaching in the MLIS program at San Jose. Just recently the opportunity presented itself to create an Early Childhood Literacy class to include in our youth services pathway and now that class will be a reality for fall of 2014. I have been asked to teach the class and I feel like I am going full circle back to my public library days and my work in one of the more unique and innovative library districts – Douglas County Libraries outside Denver, Colorado. We had internal training for ECL and this enhanced the internships and the class work I had done previously working on my K-5 endorsement.

It’s interesting what opportunities come my way from my teaching in the MLIS program at San Jose. Just recently the opportunity presented itself to create an Early Childhood Literacy class to include in our youth services pathway and now that class will be a reality for fall of 2014. I have been asked to teach the class and I feel like I am going full circle back to my public library days and my work in one of the more unique and innovative library districts – Douglas County Libraries outside Denver, Colorado. We had internal training for ECL and this enhanced the internships and the class work I had done previously working on my K-5 endorsement.

The course has been on the books for quite a while but the time seems really right to implement now as we watch the State Library starting their research and planning to provide workshops to people already working in libraries through their Early Childhood Literacy Initiatives. There is a great deal of chatter on listservs and at conferences about how libraries can/are partnering with schools and daycare agencies to get children and their parents/caregivers exposed to reading and singing to their children and to also develop an awareness of what activities can best help increase vocabulary.

One of the reasons that this class is so important to SLIS is that children’s librarians don’t usually come out of our MLIS program with a thorough understanding of early childhood literacy (ELC). How can those skills and understanding of the current issues and research be transferred into the work environment in public libraries and any other environments where our graduates will be working with young children? Providing a course in Early Childhood Literacy is a start to providing them with the information they need to be successful on the job.

Taking this class will help graduates to be “work-ready” for interviewing for children’s department positions or for those already working environments with children. Having a background in early childhood literacy can be a positive to a potential employer. Librarians with ECL training plan and knowledge of how to implement programs that center on early literacy skills and acquisition are all skills necessary for “on the job”.

The course will look at programs that teach parents/caregivers the importance of the basic literacy skills – talk, sing, read, write and play and how working with their children on these 5 basic skills can increase their readiness to enter Kindergarten and not with the gaps that are showing now in kids from ages 3 to 5.

Library and non-library environments can provide training, programs and awareness and concentrate efforts on educating and modeling for parents/caregivers. Having an understanding of the value and place of “storytime” in ECL will be included in the course content but we’ll be looking beyond storytimes to other programs and services that enhance early childhood literacy skills acquisitions. This class will include looking at existing library programs getting children and their parents ready for Pre-K and Kindergarten through programming and outreach into the community. Students will evaluate programs as well as develop a program of their own as part of the coursework

There are alarming statistics coming out here in California showing enormous gaps that are connected to children in different socioeconomic groups. Dr. Anne Fernald at Stanford is one of the leading researchers in the field at this time. One of the alarming statistics she shows is there is already a six-month gap between lower and higher income children in language proficiency. What this mean is that the average child knows 500 words by age 3 but the professional family child knows 1100. A recent article in the San Francisco Chronicle appeared on February 2nd describing this widening gap and what California is attempting to do about it. The link is: http://www.sfgate.com/opinion/article/Our-economic-future-depends-on-early-investments-5194170.php – http://www.sfgate.com/opinion/article/Our-economic-future-depends-on-early-investments-5194170.php

I do believe that our adding this class to the SLIS curriculum will have nothing but positives associated with it.