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Thursday, April 17, 2014

Early Literacy Services –Helping Children Get Ready to Read

Lives Change @ Fairfax County Public Library: What can we do for you?

Early Literacy Services Librarian Renee Edwards
 “Once again you dazzled and delivered. It is always such a pleasure to have you come read to us; whether it is to our little ones for a storytime or to our parents for our Partner-In-Print Workshop! I appreciate your expertise and examples you so vibrantly demonstrate when you come each time. Teachers learn as much as the parents.” 

-Patti Soderberg, Head Start teacher
“Our Early Literacy Outreach Assistant, Susie Miller, always provides us with engaging, memorable story times and language activities. She models for the staff best practices in sharing literature with young children and she delights our students with her novel songs, finger games and puppetry. We especially appreciate the generous gift books that she leaves behind – enough for each child to take one home and two for our classrooms. We love the Early Literacy Services program!”

-Sydney Manning, Head Start teacher

In library branches throughout Fairfax County, parents and children share the joy of participating in storytime activities. Behind the smiling faces and fun, however, lies a serious agenda:  getting Fairfax County’s children ready to read by the time they enter kindergarten. For those parents who are not able to bring their children to storytime, the library offers a unique service to set children on the path to becoming life-long readers. The library’s Early Literacy Services Program, with its traveling outreach staff and a dedicated cadre of 25 volunteers, takes the library on the road to where it is most needed.

Renee Edwards, Early Literacy Services Librarian, describes the program:

Fairfax County Public Library established the Early Literacy Services Program in 2005 to help children develop essential early literacy skills and concepts needed for school readiness. This program strives to connect child care providers and families to the library resources that will help get young children ready for reading and writing.

Early Literacy Services accomplishes these goals in several ways. Library staff and our 25 outreach volunteers present monthly storytimes to preschool children in child care centers and Head Start classrooms throughout Fairfax County. Library storytimes are based on themes (oceans, feelings, winter, etc.) and include books, songs or finger plays. These storytimes model appropriate early literacy strategies and behaviors adults should use when interacting with children to enhance the literacy experience. Since 2008, we have presented almost 5,000 storytimes.

At every storytime, staff and volunteers demonstrate the importance of making books a part of everyday life by giving free picture books to children and their caregivers. This gift extends the outreach visit into the home and is another direct connection to the library. To date, we have given approximately 23,222 picture books to children and child care providers.

Early Literacy Services also presents monthly professional development workshops for the early childhood community. These workshops highlight one or more of the five pre-reading skills needed for school readiness and demonstrate ways adults can use library books and literacy-based activities to help children develop these skills.

For many families in Fairfax County who might not know about or be able to otherwise access library services, now the library goes to them. But the work of Renee’s team extends to all of Fairfax County’s preschoolers. If you aren't able to visit a storytime with your preschooler this week, check out tips from our early literacy experts on the library’s website. You'll also find great book lists, events for preschoolers and information about what’s new in preschool books.

-Renee Edwards, Early Literacy Services
-Ginger Hawkins and Rebecca Wolff, Centreville Regional Library

Have a library story to share?  Let us know in the comments or send us an email!

The post is part of an ongoing series examining the library lives of Fairfax County residents as part of a celebration of the American Library Association’s National Library Week.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Access Services – Providing Library Services to People with Disabilities

Lives Change @ Fairfax County Public Library: What can we do for you?

“I want to thank you for your response to my book requests. I tell everyone that Talking Books literally saves my life!”

-Myrna, FCPL Access Services Customer from Springfield

The Access Services branch of the Fairfax County Public Library removes barriers to library services for people with permanent and temporary disabilities.  Our Talking Book service provides audio books and playing equipment free of charge by mail. 

Individuals of all ages who are unable to use standard print due to visual impairment or physical limitations are eligible for this Federally-funded program established by Congress in 1931.

Braille books and more than forty magazines in audio or Braille are also available.

Readers who are unable to travel to their neighborhood library branch due to disability, illness or frailty may be eligible for free home delivery of Fairfax County Public Library materials in regular print, large print or on CD.  Readers served by Access Services may choose their books or arrange for our Reader Advisors to select titles for them based on their reading interests. 

Our goal is to keep people connected to the pleasures of reading, and many tell us just how important this is to their quality of life:

“Thank you for your services especially for my special requests. There is nothing worse than being blind, but I will not give up.”  

-Catherine, FCPL Access Services customer from McLean

“You make my life wonderful with all the tapes and now flashdrives you provide. Many thanks.”
-Maryann, FCPL Access Services customer from McLean

-Janice Kuch, Access Services

Have a library story to share?  Let us know in the comments or send us an email!

The post is part of an ongoing series examining the library lives of Fairfax County residents as part of a celebration of the American Library Association’s National Library Week.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Kaleidoscope Storytime: A Safe Place Where All Children Feel Welcome

Lives Change @ Fairfax County Public Library: What can we do for you?

Chantilly staff member Gail Wellock
“We are regulars….  The teacher even has a nameplate for him. My son is 23 months old but requires a walker for walking and is sensory sensitive. The other library activities are too overwhelming for him and he is miserable.... This is the only activity we've found, paid or free, that works for him with his physical limitations, interest in age appropriate activities and sensitivities.”
-        Krystal, parent of child attending Kaleidoscope storytime at the Chantilly Regional branch of Fairfax County Public Library
Everyday activities that many of us take for granted can present great challenges for parents of autistic children. Take storytime at the library, for example. The Chantilly Regional Library branch of the Fairfax County Public Library is changing that with its monthly Kaleidoscope Storytime. This adaptive program for children on the autism spectrum or who have other developmental challenges is changing lives by providing an underserved community with special activities where these children and parents feel comfortable and welcomed.

The project was spearheaded by Chantilly Youth Services Manager Steve Okrend and staff member Gail Wellock and has since been adopted by other Fairfax County Public Library branches, including Reston Regional Library. Gail’s colleague Lee Bruner had the opportunity to attend an American Library Association conference workshop in June 2011 about special programming for kids with autism and reported back to the Chantilly staff about best practices in the field. When a regional organization, Parents of Autistic Children Northern Virginia, approached the library’s Early Literacy Specialist Renee Edwards a year later about special needs programming, Gail and Steve volunteered to develop an ongoing program for children on the autism spectrum with the encouragement of Chantilly Branch Manager Daria Parnes.

To prepare for the program, the team did extensive research, met with FCPS applied behavior coaches and observed special education classrooms. They also met with the Parents of Autistic Children group to survey the members and ask for suggestions and comments. Once they began working out the details, Gail attended a full day of training provided by the Fairfax County Public Schools Office of Special Education staff.

Among the components Gail learned to include in these special storytimes are a visual schedule that tells attendees what to expect, books with patterns and repeating lines and double visuals such as a book and a puppet, a book and a flannel board or singing the book. The children enter and sit on small carpet squares that have been arranged in a circle with stuffed animals in the center.

The first monthly Kaleidoscope Storytime launched in October 2012. More than 30 people attended that inaugural event. The program was so successful that Chantilly launched a second “Peaceful Paws” program in January 2013, a read-to-the dog program designed for this special population.

Chantilly Regional Library branch has been recognized nationally for this work. In 2013, it received an award of Outstanding Achievement from the National Association of Counties. But the best reward has been the reaction of the children and parents who attend the programs. One parent told Daria how happy she was that she could finally bring her four-year-old to a library program where his behavior was seen as normal and accepted.

This is Gail and the Chantilly library staff’s ultimate goal – to create a space “where all of us in the storytime will be accepting, tolerant and understanding of all behaviors except those which hurt others. A space where children will be honored.”

-Pat Bangs, Library Administration (retired) and Ginger Hawkins, Centreville Regional Library

Have a library story to share?  Let us know in the comments or send us an email!

The post is part of an ongoing series examining the library lives of Fairfax County residents as part of a celebration of the American Library Association’s National Library Week.