Monday, July 27, 2015

Literacy Skills Tracking and Support

One of the first things I started learning about and working on at my new job was the Ready to Read grant project WCCLS is running as a partnership with The Community Action Organization. Non-registered child care providers were trained in ECRR, and have just begun receiving bins of 50 children's books to share with the kids in their care. They receive a delivery each month for six months; then, a new cohort of child care providers is invited to the program. Don't worry, we're working on ways to sustain early literacy experiences after their 6 months is up!

After the first delivery and after talking with our partner organization, it seemed as though there might be a need for a little more support to the caregivers in order achieve Community's Action's grant goal of "storytimes or other structured shared adult/child literacy experiences" at each house. I also saw a need to meet my general grant goal of "if we're relying on someone else to do something new/change a behavior, we have to make as convenient as humanly possible."

To reach both goals, I developed an early literacy skills tracking sheet. There are four delivered with each delivery, labeled by week. I wrote it in English, and our Bilingual Outreach Librarian translated it into Spanish, while replacing different examples with more culturally relevant ones. For instance, Week 2 the "sing!" suggestion was "Five Little Monkeys"; he changed it to the fun song "La Marcha de la Vocales".

The inspiration was those pill boxes that have the days on them.On the back are a few questions to help improve the program; if providers don't fill them out they're discussed at pick-up.

Here are a few features I put extra thought into:

Pictures for low literacy. While we are working with a targeted high-risk population, I always do my best to make things for the public as TL;DR as possible. This is mostly because I want to get messages across as clearly as I can. 2 syllables or fewer is my personal goal for public resources, with seven or fewer words per sentence. But an additional piece we must consider when developing early literacy support for parents and caregivers is that they themselves might live with low literacy. The picture for "sing" isn't very cute, but it was the only MS clipart I could find that actually showed someone singing. Musical notes aren't guaranteed to be recognizable.

"Every ECRR skills will be accompanied by a Bob's Burger's GIF"

Examples of early literacy activities. WLA'S YSS Early Literacy Calendars are a great place to start when considering the wide range of suggested activities one can include.  But I also wanted to make sure the majority of suggested activities could be done in any setting. I also tried my best to give examples that could be done every day and have different outcomes.

Reading out loud as the featured skill. Reading out loud with the type of high-quality books we deliver was recently confirmed in a new study  by Dominic Massaro at the University of California, Santa Cruz to be more effective than talking when it comes to building receptive vocabulary through introducing new words. This of course is not to say that the other skills don't matter; just to thwart the simplicity of early literacy instruction that media outlets lazily proclaim is the One True Solution. That said, if the providers don't do anything else on this sheet, we want them to read with
their kids.

How did this go? I'm unsure yet, since we haven't use these yet. BUT, I definitely see potential for use in libraries (summer or winter reading programs--adaptable for school age as well I'm sure, during storytime breaks, a 1000 Books before Kindergarten alternative, other) that I wanted to make sure to share with permission!
Click here for the full size PDF!

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