The Moorestown Library has a new program designed for children to develop early literacy skills.
According to Ashley Hoffman and Barbara Napoliello, youth services librarians, Literacy 4 Littles has three major components: toys, games and activities designed to develop a specific set of literacy skills in a fun way; Scholastic Teachables skills sheets that target a specific area of literacy; and “Take Home Tips,” bookmarks with exercises to do at home that reinforce skills practiced at the library.
“Barb and I were talking about story time and how we can introduce different things into our normal repertoire,” Hoffman said of how Literacy 4 Littles started. “But then we were thinking, story time is actually going pretty well. Maybe we don’t want to mess with something that’s going well; maybe we want to go in a new direction.”
One idea then snowballed into another, but the focus remained: encouraging caregivers and children to practice their literacy skills both inside and outside the library.
“ … We were thinking, ‘Part of it is reinforcing that (children) can (read) anywhere, anytime … It should be an ongoing thing,” Hoffman explained. “Just having an open invitation for kids to come, create and play was super successful right off the bat.”
According to Napoliello and Hoffman, the Literacy 4 Littles table introduces a new skill every month – the theme for February is letter recognition – for children and caregivers to explore together with corresponding toys, games, activity sheets and take-home tips.
“We wanted to get into basic literacy skills, so I went back to what is necessary for preschool …” Napoliello noted. “New Jersey has standards for preschool learning. I went back and I looked through all the standards and I figured, okay well, the basic literacy foundation is letters, recognizing letters. So we decided to start with that.”
The librarians discussed how the Literacy 4 Littles table features a variety of skills sheets that zero in on recognizing different letters, and children who sing or clap their ABCs get a gold star sticker. Bookmarks include four take-home tips about building letter recognition that encourage children and caregivers to practice skills at home in a way that is quick, fun and accessible.
“We wanted to have some manipulatives for the little littles – zero to 2 years old – and others for our older littles, like the preschool age,” Hoffman said.
“We expected the kids to come over here and just play with everything, but what we’re seeing more of are the parents and grandparents and the caregivers interacting with the children, and really going over the letters and asking them questions,” Napoliello observed.
Although the program is still in its early stages, the two women look forward to seeing Literacy 4 Littles grow.
“I would like to see it tie into some other things that we have,” Napoliello said. “We have computers – the AWE computers – and there are very specific programs. There’s a (program) where you trace the letters, and maybe we can put up a sign that says, ‘Do this program and you’ll get to recognize your letters.’”
Napoliello and Hoffman described seeing how caregivers and parents engage with their children around the early-literacy activities.
“I feel like we’re guiding caregivers a little bit more by providing something like this to help them get their children ready, to get the children excited,” Napoliello said.
“By learning through play, they’re opening so many different parts of their brain, like creativity, imagination … so I love that we are able to give so many toys (to) the kids and show that they’re tools,” Hoffman added.
For more information on Literacy 4 Littles, visit https://moorestownlibrary.org.