Developmental Tips

Developmental Tips

Parents and caregivers spend more time with their children than librarians do. Giving short "developmental tips" to parents during a program explains what you are doing, why you are doing it (the benefit to the child or what skill the activity helps them to practice), and how it can be replicated at home. The way parents interact with their children, the amount of time they spend together, and the activities that they share all make a difference in the child's forming personality.  That's why adding developmental tips to library programs is important. Tips can be used for letting parents know that  loving interactions with their children set them on a positive course for life; they can also be used to tell parents that a specific fingerplay or knee bounce helps build their child's vocabulary as well as their math skills.

An easy way to impart information to parents, the tips should be short, matter-of-fact, and related to a book you have read or an activity that you are about to do or have just done. Use conversational words, not scientific terms! Keeping your tip to a maximum of four sentences means that parents will be able to hear and absorb what you have to say.

Many librarians find it time-consuming to look for different developmental tips each week. In addition, while language and literacy tips are readily available for librarians, tips pertaining to the other domains of school readiness are often not so easy to find. In order to help make the use of developmental tips easier, I partnered with colleague Saroj Nadkarni Ghoting to create developmental tip cards. We designed our development tips to include the full range of school readiness domains on large index cards that included directions for fingerplays, songs, movement activities, book connections, or activities for parents at home with their children.  Originally published by ALA Editions, "The Early Literacy Kit: A Handbook and Tip Cards" is now out-of-print, although it might still be available on Amazon.

However, since Saroj and I created those tip cards, the idea of "school readiness domains" has expanded greatly.  Most educators no longer look at School Readiness as being the five domains that were defined by the National Educational Goals Panel in 1997:

  1. Approach to learning,
  2. Language & literacy,
  3. Social and emotional skills,
  4. General knowledge, and
  5. Physical development.

Our tip cards were based on those domains, but since then, the definition of school readiness been revised over and over again.

The Bay Area Discovery Museum (BADM) in California felt it was time to create their own definition of School Readiness. They also wanted to promote the "growth mindset", a belief that everyone has the capability to improve their capacities and talents over time as long as they keep an open mind, are willing to be flexible, and will try new things. They believe that with the growth mindset, children will welcome challenges rather than being intimidated by them.  Using research findings, The folks at BADM have redefined School Readiness as having skills in all three of these categories:

  • Talk & Play
  • Science & Math
  • Body & Brain

BADM received IMLS funding for a "Reimagining School Readiness" project. They designed activities and programs that can be used in the library setting which expose children and the adults in their lives to new experiences with the intention of building their growth mindset and school readiness skills. BADM has created an expansive toolkit  with research-backed resources created for librarians "to help families prepare children ages 0 to 8 for success in school and in life. The toolkit is completely downloadable and printable."

Saroj and I both serve as advisors for this project. Through monthly conversations with the participating librarians about the variety of activities, we've noticed confusion about the difference between free play, lightly guided play, guided play, and direct instruction. In order to give concrete examples for the librarians involved in this project, Saroj created a continuum chart with easy explanations and examples. (I contributed examples related to colored scarves.) This is a great resource; it gives lots of developmental tips along with concrete examples of activities, leading to clear understanding of the difference between the different types of play. You can download the PDF by clicking here.