For many early childhood educators, remote learning has deepened family partnerships and provided new opportunities for engagement. For some communities, morning circle time is now a whole family video conference pajama party – and it is the highlight of their day. Families are also reaching out to their teachers with concerns about their children’s educational progress, and teachers want to reduce anxiety while helping families support their children in developmentally responsive ways – rather than providing worksheets and apps.
Children’s librarians use a family engagement technique called early literacy asides that may be useful to educators now that their own storytime audiences include the whole family. These asides are very brief messages to families embedded in storytimes that provide guidance about how to foster early literacy skills. The key to a successful aside is that it is concise enough not to detract from the storytime experience for the children.
Here is an example of New York Public Library Children’s Librarian Maggie Craig using early literacy asides during a toddler story time. She reads I Really Want to See You Grandma by Taro Gomi, a perfect story for the moment.
The asides Maggie uses include:
2:16 Sometimes even before toddlers are ready to sit through a whole story, just tactile interactions with books, watching how you turn the pages, is really good foundational time. That’s why we say ‘time with books’ every day – it doesn’t have to be ‘reading all the way through time.’
4:50 One really good thing to do if you’re reading long books like this is to pull out vocabulary words to highlight.
And here are some examples of early literacy asides in New York Public Library children’s librarian Jessica Agudelo’s storytime:
3:46 Grown-ups, when we ask questions like this, we allow our children to make predictions about the story and and it gets their motors going while we read.
8:50 Grown-ups, that’s another good way to have your child make connections to the story – is to ask them how you think the characters feel.
The NYPL has shared a list of early literacy asides that their librarians draw on in case they are helpful to you at this time. The NYPL has also created these play-recipes to support our efforts to keep children learning in developmentally responsive play-based ways.
Does your circle time now include the whole family? How has the change in audience changed your practice?