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Child Development in Library Context


Role of libraries and librarians in serving children:

According to ALA, "Libraries are family-oriented public institutions charged with making a broad selection of materials available for everyone, including children and teenagers. Most public libraries have special areas for children and teens with materials that appeal to various ages and interests. Libraries also offer summer reading programs, storytelling, book discussions and other special programs for young people. Programs such as these help kids learn to enjoy libraries and use them for their information and entertainment needs. School libraries have a responsibility to support their school’s curriculum and to provide materials that serve the diverse backgrounds, interests, maturity levels and reading levels of the entire student body." (ALA, 1999)

This was not always like this. History and Traditions of Youth Services Librarianship wiki page shows the evolution of libraries and librarians to embrace children as an important part of libraries.

Nowadays, the children’s space in a library is an inviting place for young patrons to visit. However, most of them do not feel comfortable talking to their librarians. Most library information systems are not created for library’s younger patrons and they usually need guidance to feel comfortable in a library setting (Pattee, 2008). Also, a large part of the queries that brings young patrons into the library are not self-generated but rather something that was put on them by adults as their homework, reports. This can alter the image and the motive of child patron’s reason for being in the library. Because this is something that was not voluntary, this might affect the information seeking behavior and attitude. As a librarian, understanding this complication and having accountability for that patron will lead to a good experience. Patrons with good experience will most likely be coming back in the future. According to Pattee, a children’s librarian must be able to perform a specialized reference interviews and also be able to give library orientations and bibliographic instruction simultaneously (Pattee, 2008).

Programming Considerations

Programming can be important in developing children in many ways.
When creating or facilitating programs for children, taking account of the developmental stages of younger patrons according to their age will maximize the engagement and interest. Typical programming for children can be re-evaluated and revised to fit the specific needs of the age group. According to ALA, such programs help to “illuminate the experiences, beliefs and values that unite us as human beings.” (ALA, 2011)
Many educators and psychologists suggest relationship between play and development of cognitive and linguistic processes (Bane, 2008). If there is indeed a relationship between playing and development, having library programs that promotes both play and learning will definitely of benefit to both parties. Younger patrons will have fun and not even know that they are actually in the process of developing mental, social and language skills.
Here are two examples of the programs where “play” is emphasized.

“Let’s Pretend”
According to Bane, The Greenville County Library System has developed this program to bring the world of make-believe to the library. This is a once a month program for patrons ages 2–5 accompanied by parents or caregivers. Books are used to guide patrons and expand on the imagination development of thinking, language, social, and physical skills. This program was a great success and parents also enjoyed the experiences and tips they got for pretend play at home (Bane, 2008).

“Kids Connect”
This program from Covington Library in Washington state was designed to entertain families and educate them about the library facility and what the library has to offer to patrons. Participants enjoyed the musical adventure
The Board of Education and the comedy team The Brothers from Different Mothers while they visited informational stations highlighting four key areas of the library:
  • Self Check-in, Automated Materials Handling (AMH) and back room tour. “I put them in the slot. Now where do they go?”
  • Kid-friendly databases. “Time to do my homework—Help!”
  • New OPAC. “I want it! Does the library have it?”
  • Early Literacy. “My child doesn’t read yet. What does the library have for us?”
Two people—one who taught participants about library resources and services and one stamping passports handing out prizes, directing participants to informational brochures, and answering questions (Sands, 2011).

More traditional yet effective programming for children promoting early literacy in libraries can be found at these wiki pages.
Storytime Programs
Summer Reading Programs
Digital Storytelling
Comics, Manga, and Graphic Novels

Also, ALA offers Public Programming Electronic Discussion Lists which offers grants and forums in which programmings can be discussed with fellow colleagues.

Libraries are a great opportunities to introduce children to print materials and language development. This can be crucial in early and mid childhood years. Research shows that in order to acquire literacy skills, children need to view variety of high-quality books on diverse topics, genres and perspective that will reflect the diverse multicultural society of today. This is because they would need to find books that they can see themselves and others around them (Neuman, 2000). Ideally for older children, public libraries should communicate with local school librarians to coordinate services. Also, libraries need to collaborate with literacy programs, tutors, and the community to address “informational literacy,” which is not only knowing to read and write but also seeking information to use or evaluate it (Celano, 2001).
Brining in younger patrons to the library can be done through outreach programs. Outreach programs are important because it will bring brand new patrons into the library building. The targeted patrons can vary greatly from homeschoolers to non-native speakers of English. Because library is part of the community and interaction between it is very important. The outreach methods will mirror the demographics of the community. Our wiki has pages on different types of patron population listed below:
Non-native Speakers of English
Incarcerated Youth
Special Needs Youth

The following list shows links to different outreach ideas and grant information.

The Association for Library Service to Children (ALSC) offers this blog, which includes podcasts on many topics, including collection development, programming ideas, research, intellectual freedom, and current trends in Children's services.

The Children’s and Young Adult Bloggers’ Literary Awards allow the public to nominate their favorite children's books in seven categories. Committees of bloggers will select the winner.
The Cybils Blog

The Great Website for Kids has links to great links that patrons might enjoy and also has separate page for parents, teachers and caregivers.
Great Websites for Kids

Friends of the library USA- Programs and Projects lists experiences and outcomes of programs and projects done.
Friends of the library USA-Programs and Projects

PUBYAC (PUBlic libraries, Young Adults, and Children)listserv is an Internet discussion list concerned with the practical aspects of Children and Young Adult Services in Public Libraries, focusing on programming ideas, outreach and literacy programs, censorship and policy issues, collection development, job openings, professional development and other pertinent services and issues.