Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Early Literacy Advocacy for Elected Officials (with Links to Research)

Last month I was tasked with creating two Powerpoints on early literacy to present to key stakeholders in our community. One was presented to a local governing board, and was given by the Director of the cooperative, the Outreach and Training Manager, and myself.

I was pretty excited about this challenge after my first year on the AASL/ALSC/YALSA Interdivisional Committee on School/Public Library Collaboration with Chair Jenna Nemec-Loise of Everyday Advocacy fame.  I approached this with “sound bites they can use” in mind. I also thought about what was “in it for them” as far as early literacy was concerned. An additional opportunity was that, while many of the attendees had been presented with a “libraries and early literacy” talk before, it had been nine years. They needed a refresher, and we had a lot of updates for them—in service and research!

When thinking about “what’s in it for them”, here are a few implied benefits I threaded through the presentation:
1.       You, the governing body, are an educated group.
2.       Early literacy creates educated people who will vote fellow educated people into office.
3.       Early literacy in libraries will keep you or people like you in office.
4.       Profit. (Did you know the return on investment for a community with an early literacy focus is upwards of 16%??? okay maybe you did but your local elected officials probably need that info ASAP).
With that in mind, here are a few sound bites you can use in a future presentation to your governing body:

Okay but seriously writing this PPT pumped me up.
1. A recent Pew Research Center survey reported that 85% of respondents believe that libraries “should definitely” offer early literacy programming and resources to help children become ready for school.

2. Young children’s brains are ready for literacy learning from ages 0-6 in a way that is unmatched by any other time in their lives. Access to resources at the public library regardless of a family’s socio-economic situation ensures the future of [your city here] as a vibrant and thriving community.

3. Practice with reading, writing, singing, talking, and playing is an investment in our society.
A person’s success as an informed, literate citizen starts with the time they spend on these skills when they are young.

4.  Without exposure to early literacy activities like reading, building muscles that will help with writing, talking, singing, and playing, the very connections we need to become successful and literate citizens will be deemed unnecessary to a baby’s developing brain.  Early literacy is an imperative and complex exercise in "use it or lose it" (I know I already linked to that video in a previous post but OMG).

5. On play: The connections children’s brains are making in abstract thinking prepare them for philosophical and hypothetical thought. Discerning and aware adults are made through play as kids.

6. Getting ready to read is a tough job, and it’s one that children must take on at a very young age.  [Your local public] libraries are equipped to answer the call with programs, services, and resources to secure a bright future for our community.

7. Literacy is a vehicle for all learning and is the greatest gift we can give the children in our community. On top of societal benefits like poverty and crime rate reduction, reading can relieve stress and build resilience to help children lead enriched lives.

8. An engaging literacy environment at home is one of the biggest predictors for reading achievement later in life. Each child deserves a variety of great books to browse and adults who are empowered to engage them in fun early literacy activities. This type of home environment can be fostered with resources from our [local public] libraries.

9. The numbers are clear: when an intentional focus is placed on early literacy, communities thrive and an informed citizenry is fostered.

What are some of your favorite go-to soundbites?

Oh btw here's the completed PPT:


  1. This is one of the best examples of tailoring the message to the audience I've seen in ages! Thank you for sharing --- and for your pointed and powerful advocacy.

  2. Phenomenal work--many thanks for your willingness to share!

  3. I'm really behind on reading...everything, and I'm glad that this post didn't completely fall through the cracks for me! My library's having a heck of a time trying to convince our local officials that the library isn't a waste of money, and your points are awesome - thank you for sharing!