ORONO — Parents in the Orono and Old Town areas will soon be able to feed their young children’s love of reading with “Literacy To Go” — informational text, a storybook and a storyboard all delivered in a themed pizza box kit.
The University of Maine Raymond H. Fogler Library is utilizing a $43,000 grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services to partner with UMaine’s College of Education and Human Development, Old Town Elementary School and Old Town Public Library to train librarians to promote early literacy with informational text.
Informational text is nonfiction that imparts information about the arts, sciences and social studies. The vocabulary is technical, and realistic photographs and illustrations are generally included.
“The kits are really just the vehicle for this change in thinking about libraries as a source of support for family literacy,” said Susan Bennett-Armistead, the grant’s principal investigator and Correll Professor of Early Literacy in the College of Education and Human Development.
Fogler Library purchased books for its kits, and the Correll Fund purchased books for kits at Old Town Elementary School and Old Town Public Library.
A variety of themes will be highlighted in each set of 20 kits, which will be distributed in January to Fogler Library and the Old Town sites. Two books in each kit will be written for children from birth to age 5 (most are for children aged 3-5); one is fiction and one is informational text. The third book is for parents to read. The books are intended to promote conversation between parents and children and the felt storyboard can be used to reinforce concepts.
It’s important for good-quality informational texts to be accessible to very young children, says Bennett-Armistead.
“When you’re doing read-aloud with your little ones and when you’re playing with these materials, you’re actually building their vocabulary or you’re helping them build their world knowledge, which has a direct impact on their comprehension,” she said.
Librarians will be taught how they can use the kits, how they can develop future kits and how they can work with the families around promoting early literacy concepts during a series of six training workshops that start in late January.
“The real change is the knowledge base of librarians,” said Bennett-Armistead. “Librarians are now going to be in the fold for really advocating for parents and their children to be interacting around text. We’re hopeful that we’ll be able to assist librarians in thinking about ramping up summertime programs, so that we don’t have as significant an educational loss in the summertime.”
Bennett-Armistead is thankful that the Institute of Museum and Library Services saw the potential in promoting early literacy in this way and of the opportunity to work with Fogler. “Whenever there’s an opportunity for collaboration, you have a richer outcome,” she said.
Cynthia Crosser, Fogler’s social science and humanities reference librarian, and Jason Charland, grants management coordinator for the College of Education and Human Development, wrote the grant proposal with Bennett-Armistead. They were awarded the grant in late September.
In January, they’ll apply for a grant renewal titled “Literacy To Go Farther” to expand the training program and kit concept.