SJSU Information School and California State Library Team Up in Early Childhood Literacy Initiative


The topic of childhood literacy is being discussed widely, as television commercials and radio advertisements inform viewers and listeners how simply talking to a baby from birth can help with brain development. While the advertisements are targeting parents and caregivers, the community library can also play a critical role in early childhood development by providing library services to young children, their families, and caregivers. With this in mind, the California State Library launched its Early Learning with Families (ELF) 2.0 initiative in July 2013.

The ELF 2.0 project was designed to support library services aimed at early learning, but according to Suzanne Flint of the California State Library, very few library and information science master’s degree programs offer any courses in child development. As a result, children’s librarians often find it difficult to develop programs that support early learning in developmentally appropriate ways. “If quality [early learning] programs aren’t there, we lose the opportunity to make lifelong library lovers,” said Flint.

Inspired by the ELF 2.0 initiative and recognizing the need for more graduate-level courses in this area, the San José State University (SJSU) School of Library and Information Science is working with the California State Library to train future and current information professionals to provide quality early childhood programming in both library and non-library settings. The SJSU information school will be offering a new course focused on childhood literacy programs in its Master of Library and Information Science (MLIS) online degree program beginning in fall 2014.

Two SJSU faculty members, Beth Wrenn-Estes and Dr. Joni Richards Bodart, who are both experts in youth librarianship, completed a series of ELF 2.0 training webinars before developing the new LIBR 267 Early Childhood Literacy course. The Early Childhood Literacy course “covers a wide variety of topics including current research, best practices, and practical examples that can be implemented in various work environments with children,” said Wrenn-Estes, who will be teaching the course this fall. 

In addition to presenting the most current research on early learning, the course will also give students a chance to meet a number of experts in the field. Wrenn-Estes said, “I have several amazing speakers lined up for this fall as guest speakers, including Suzanne Flint, the ELF 2.0 initiative architect; Cen Campbell, who specializes in Early Literacy in the digital age; and Patrick Remer, youth services librarian at Pleasant Hill Library who has developed creative programs that weave literacy and learning together. Finally, we’ll have nationally acclaimed Dr. Teri Lesene, author, speaker, and an expert in children’s, tweens, and teen literature.”

Wrenn-Estes believes, “Taking this class will help graduates to be ‘work-ready’ for interviewing for children’s department positions or for those already working with children. Having a background in early childhood literacy can be a positive to a potential employer.” The Early Childhood Literacy course is one of numerous new electives offered in the SJSU information school’s nationally ranked MLIS program, which is continually evaluated and updated to align with the job market.

In addition, working professionals may sign up for the Early Childhood Literacy course as part of their professional development plans through the i.School Open Classes program, a continuing education program open to anyone with a bachelor’s degree at minimum, who wants to take graduate-level courses for college credit. And according to Flint’s research on the ELF 2.0 initiative, information professionals are looking to further their skills and knowledge in this area. Flint said, “Hands down, the feedback was that children’s librarians are eager for more professional development opportunities on this topic.”

For more information about the California State Library’s ELF 2.0 initiative, please visit: