Public Library Programs and Services

ALSC Offers Five Spring Course Options

Whether you’re looking for lively discussion about children’s librarianship, new programming ideas, or just want to brush up before summer, the Association for Library Service to Children (ALSC) has something for everyone.

With five excellent choices for your professional development needs, our spring online courses are sure to please. In addition to ALSC’s short webinars, these five-to-six week long courses give students more opportunities to interact with their peers in a convenient online atmosphere. The five courses include:

The Caldecott Medal (May 2 – June 10)                                            Instructor: Kathleen T. Hornung

Children with Disabilities in the Library (May 2 – June 10) Instructor: Katharine (Kate) Todd

Introduction to Graphic Novels for Children (May 2 – June 10)
Instructor: Janet Weber

Out of This World Youth Programming (May 2 – June 10)
Instructor: Angela Young

Reading Instruction and Children’s Books (May 2 – June 3)
Instructor: Katharine (Kate) Todd

For more information on these courses and special rates for ALSC members, please visit the ALSC online education site. Questions? Please contact ALSC Program Officer, Jenny Najduch,, or 800-545-2433 ext. 4026.

Continuing the Conversation: Supporting Early Literacy Through Language-Rich Library Environments

Earlier today, we held the ALA Editions Workshop Supporting Early Literacy through Language Rich Library Environments with Saroj Ghoting. We’re following up with a few of the questions asked during the presentation that we felt merited further discussion: Saroj will be part of the discussion as well!

  • What do you think is the role of technology in promoting early literacy?
  • What is the ideal timeline for replacing displays and material in your space?
  • What’s the difference between open and closed-ended toys? Which type is better in promoting early literacy?

Links to Resources that Saroj Mentioned today:

The preliminary readings for this workshop were:

  • Welcoming Place,  Chapter 6 in Designing Space for Children and Teens in Libraries and Public Places by Sandra Feinberg and James Keller. Chicago: ALA, 2010 HU
  • Parent Participation,  Chapter 4 in Learning Environments for Young Children: Rethinking Library Spaces and Services by Sandra Feinberg et al. Chicago: ALA, 1998. HU
  • Meece, Darrell and Anne Soderman. Setting the Stage for Young Children’s Social Development . Young Children. September 2010 p. 81-86. HU
  • Greenman, Jim. Places for Childhood in the 21st Century: A Conceptual Framework. Beyond the Journal: Young Children on the Web, May 2005. HU
  • Early Literacy Research-Explained, Chapter 1 in Early Literacy Storytimes @ your library: Partnering with Caregivers for Success by Saroj Ghoting and Pamela Martin-Diaz. Chicago: ALA: 2006 HU
  • The following materials are suggested resources, though they may not be available for free:
  • Copple, Carol and Sue Bredekamp, eds. Developmentally Appropriate Practice in Early Childhood Programs Serving Children from Birth through Age 8 (3rd ed). Washington, DC: NAEYC, 2009.
  • Curtis, Deb and Margie Carter. Designs for Living and Learning: Transforming Early Childhood Environments. St.Paul, MN: Redleaf Press, 2003.
  • Diamant-Cohen, Betsy and Saroj Ghoting. Early Literacy Kit: A Handbook and Tip Cards. Chicago: ALA, 2010. (includes school readiness domains)
  • Feinberg, Sandra and James Keller. Designing Space for Children and Teens in Libraries and Public Places: How to Carve Out a Niche That Epitomizes Service. American Libraries. April 2010, pg. 34-37.
  • Gronlund, Gaye. Developmentally Appropriate Play: Guiding Young Children to a Higher Level. St. Paul, MN: Redleaf Press, 2010.
  • Harmes, Thelma. Environmental Rating Scales--Revised. New York: Teachers College Press, various dates.
  • Neuman, Susan B. et al. User’s Guide to the Child Home Early Language & Literacy Observation (CHELLO) Tool. Baltimore: Paul Brookes, 2007.
  • Seefeldt, Carol. Creating Rooms of Wonder: Valuing and Displaying Children’s Work to Enhance the Learning Process. Beltsville, MD: Gryphon House, 2002.
  • Tough, Paul. Whatever It Takes: Geoffrey Canada’s Quest to Change Harlem and America. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 2008.
  • Zigler, Edward. Children’s Play; The Roots of Reading.  Washington, DC: Zero to Three, 2004.
  • Todd Risley interview: Children of the Code
  • Library Environments for Early Literacy:
  • Early Learning Standards
  • School Readiness Domains
  • Governors’ Common Core State Standards

Saroj’s Slides:

How Does My Garden Grow? Children’s Programming Monthly v1 #8

You may still be coping with wintery days, but here at Children’s Programming Monthly, we’ve put away the umbrellas. “How Does My Garden Grow?” is ready to download, and it’s blooming with great ideas, books to read aloud, and fun activities:   

  • “Wonderful Worms” by Caroline Feller Bauer
  • “Grow, Grow, Grow!” by Judy Nichols
  • “Gardens” by Saroj Nadkarni Ghoting and Pamela Martin-Diaz
  • “Growing Books” by Sue McCleaf Nespeca and Joan B. Reeve
  • “In Our Garden” by Diane Briggs.

No subscribed yet? Visit us at to sign up. If you have a program you would like to share,  you’ll find submission guidelines at . Or contact me at

Design for Early Literacy

How you use space and design in your children’s area  can foster early literacy.  Saroj Ghoting will lead an ALA Editions Workshop on April 21 at 1:00 p.m. EDT that is sure to trigger ideas and support your planning. Below is an overview of the topics

  • Early literacy skills
  • Play
  • What are language-rich environments
  • Examples
  • Strategies
  • Considerations

We’ve collected a  a handful of examples of what language-rich environments in this Flickr set.

Among Saroj’s examples is the Rancho Cucamonga (Calif.) Library’s Play and Learn Islands™, interactive exhibits that encourage purposeful play. Play projecst like Discovery Dig, Big Build, and IlluminART develop skills in problem solving, sorting, sharing, early literacy, and collaboration. The colorful design, scale and varied activities appeal to a range of ages, encouraging families to play and explore together. Check out the library’s Flickr set.

You can register for this event or get more information at the ALA Store by going to:

Communicating with Deaf Customers in the Library

The customer approaches the reference desk.  “How may I help you?” you ask politely.  She points to her ear and shakes her head, letting you know she cannot hear you.  Do you panic?  No need!  Follow the tips below to provide excellent customer service to your Deaf customers:

•Maintain eye contact.  This is incredibly important.  Breaking eye contact without warning, especially to carry on a spoken conversation with someone else, is rude to the deaf person.

•Make sure the deaf person is looking at you before you speak, sign, or gesture.  If you need to get his or her attention, tap him or her on the shoulder or make a small waving movement in his or her peripheral vision.

•Don’t assume that every deaf person speechreads.  Speechreading is a very difficult skill to master (even for hearing people), and many deaf people don’t find it effective beyond common phrases such as “How are you?”

•Also don’t assume that every deaf person signs.  While many do, there are a wide variety of communication methods employed by deaf people. 

•Keep your face and lips visible.  Even if someone does not speechread well, a great deal of information is conveyed by the face.  Make sure your face is sending the message you want it to.

•Speak naturally.  Don’t exaggerate your mouth movements or speak too slowly.  And don’t shout!

•Avoid standing with your back to a window or other light source – this makes speechreading and getting information from facial expressions difficult.

•Offer a pen and paper to write notes back and forth, but be aware that English is a second language for most deaf people.  When writing notes:
-Keep it simple! Use short sentences and plain language.
-Don’t use idioms and slang.
-Repeat the question to make sure you understand.

•Look directly at the deaf person when speaking, even when communicating through an interpreter.

•ATTITUDE is the most important thing!  Keep in mind that most deaf people spend every day of their lives trying to communicate with hearing people, and so have many strategies for communicating with someone who doesn’t know their language.  Follow their lead in a respectful, patient way.  Deaf people will appreciate your efforts to communicate.

Kathy MacMillan is a nationally certified American Sign Language, librarian, and storyteller.  She is the author of Try Your Hand at This: Easy Ways to Incorporate Sign Language Into Your Programs (Scarecrow, 2005), A Box Full of Tales (ALA, 2009), and co-author of Storytime Magic (ALA, 2009) and Kindergarten Magic (ALA, 2011).  Find more information about American Sign Language at her website at  For programming resources, see

Check Out PLA's Turning the Page 2.0


If you haven’t seen it yet, you’re going to want to check out and sign up for this new, FREE training program. Just one hour a week (like my book!), for six weeks, library staff and supporters from around the country can build their advocacy skills and strengthen their libraries with PLA’s Turning the Page 2.0! If, like many, you’re looking for low-cost, effective and “schedule friendly” training for yourself and/or your staff, don’t miss this!

Go to: and check it out!

A Book Recommendation for National Poetry Month

Kick off National Poetry Month in April with Jill Esbaum’s Stanza, a picture book about a versifying dog.

During the day, “Stanza prowled through the streets with his two rotten brothers, annoying and chasing and bullying others.” At night he secretly writes poetry.

When his brothers discover his passion, they ridicule him—until Stanza wins a tasty prize in a poetry contest.

The description of Stanza’s efforts to create a jingle for the contest demonstrates the importance of revising work to make it as good as it can be.

He scribbled and scrawled.
He wadded up papers.
He pondered.
He paced.
He scoured his thesaurus.
He struggled for rhymes.
He started from scratch at least eighty-two times.

This rhyming story can encourage any kind of creative endeavor, because Stanza persuades his brothers to unleash their own artistic sides. The book ends with one playing the piano and the other painting pictures.

Dee Anderson is the author of Reading Is Funny!: Motivating Kids to Read with Riddles  (ALA Editions, 2009)

Continuing the Conversation: Liven up Baby and Toddler Storytimes with Sign Language

We just wrapped up Kathy MacMillan’s workshop Liven up Baby and Toddler Storytimes with Sign Language. We’ve gathered questions from the chat window so that Kathy can respond and elaborate.

Please continue the discussion of these, and any other questions you might have in the comments area. Kathy will be chiming in.

  • What do you think about the use of “baby signs”? How does that compare to ASL?
  • Do you find that using these techniques work best in a storytime where registrations is required (same or similar children each week) as opposed to non-registration storytime where you may have many different children/parents every week
  • What general signs would be good to use on a weekly basis?
  • Have you done sensory story times that incorporate sign language, and can you recommend some good resources regarding sensory story times for children with special needs?
  • I am curious about what sign you use for diamond in the Twinkle Little Star song.  I know the common gesture can be an ASL sign.

The Preliminary Readings for this Workshop Were:

Signing with Babies:

Benefit of Teaching Young Kids Sign Language:

American Sign Language:

Six Super Ways to Use Sign Language in Your Programs:

Kathy’s Videos on YouTube:

Bounce: Taking Turns:
Nursery Rhyme Activity: Jack Be Nimble:
Song: I Took a Walk:
Flannelboard Song: Three Jellyfish:
Song: Hello/Goodbye Babies/Friends:
Flannelboard or Prop Rhyme: Five Snowmen:
Flannelboard Song:
Flannelboard or Prop Rhyme: Five Little Monkeys:
Action Rhyme: Caterpillar, Caterpillar:
Prop Story: Bear's Bath:
Book: Cornelius P. Mud, Are You Ready for Bed?
Book: Bear Wants More:
Group Management Signs:

Kathy’s Slides:

Celebrate Dia with ALSC!

The Association for Library Service to Children (ALSC) is offering the first-ever Día related webinar, Día 101: Everything you need to know about celebrating El día de los niños/El día de los libros. The course will take place on Friday, April 1, 2011 at 1 PM CST.

The webinar will be an hour-long analysis of all things Día by Beatriz Pascual Wallace, MLIS Children’s Librarian at the Seattle Public Library. Learners will experience the history, resources and importance of Día.

Día is an enhancement of Children’s Day, which began in 1925. Children’s Day was designated as a day to bring attention to the importance and well-being of children. In 1996, nationally acclaimed children’s book author Pat Mora proposed linking the celebration of childhood and children with literacy to found El día de los niños/El día de los libros. The event is supported by ALSC and REFORMA, the professional organization for Spanish-speaking librarians and information specialists. To learn more about El día de los niños/El día de los libros, please visit the Día homepage.

The cost of the webinar is $45 for ALSC members, $55 for non-members, and $195 for groups. To sign up for this webinar, please visit ALSC’s online education page. For more information on ALSC’s online education programs or for registration information, please contact ALSC Program Officer Jenny Najduch, or 1-800-545-2433 ext. 4026.

Liven Up Baby and Toddler Storytimes with Sign Language with Kathy MacMillan

When a friend mentioned using sign language with his toddler,  the trend was news to me.  I now know that thousands of hearing parents teaching their hearing children basic signs. Nonetheless, I was skeptical when Kathy MacMillan, an ALA Editions author and storyteller who also happens to be a certified American Sign Language interpreter, proposed an ALA Editions Workshop on signing in storytime. What’s with this? I asked in an email message. Is it a Baby-Mozart thing? Kathy’s reply was impassioned.

In fact, research shows that signing with young children stimulates both spoken AND signed language development, decreases frustration, enhances bonding, and promotes early literacy.  (The books Sign with Your Baby by Dr. Joseph Garcia and Dancing With Words by Marilyn Daniels summarize the research.)  I attribute the widespread interest in signing with babies and young children to the fact that it works!  When a child can tell you what he or she wants by signing instead of screaming, amazing things happen.  

Giving a young child the power to communicate can even save a life: a colleague of mine who teaches baby sign language classes in Arizona had an 18 month old girl in one of her classes who was bitten by a baby rattlesnake while playing in the garden with her mother.  Her mother didn't see the snake, and because the bite was so small she assumed it was just a bug bite.  Only when the little girl kept signing "snake" did the mother realize what had happened.  The girl survived, and if that story doesn't illustrate the benefits, I don't know what does.

But you don’t have to be fluent in American Sign Language to bring its benefits to your storytimes.  Kathy MacMillan sees sign language as another tool in the children’s librarian’s toolkit, much like using music, props, manipulatives, or a bit of Spanish. Perhaps the best reason? “Parents get really into it,” Kathy says. “Programmers sometimes complain when parents don’t interact with their kids. I can tell you emphatically that it’s not a problem when I’m using sign language in a program. Parents are excited to learn it because it makes their parenting lives easier.”

The goal of ALA Editions Workshops is to offer practical, actionable knowledge while promoting discussion, learning, and information sharing. The relatively small audience supports focused, discussion through the chat window. We assign homework too! For ideas on how sign language can enliven your programs, see Six Super Ways to Use Sign Language in Your Programs, which is one of the preliminary readings for Kathy's Workshop.

In the online Workshop,  Kathy will present the basics you need to know to effectively incorporate signs into stories, songs, and more, including videos to get you started. We will provide attendees with handouts for reference after the event. Here’s a video for the action rhyme. Caterpillar, Caterpillar

You can register for Kathy's Workshop at the ALA Store by going to

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