Outreach Programs and Students: How?

Outreach programs have a large impact on children in all communities and can be done in a variety of ways. With new technologies constantly emerging, libraries and librarians are finding different ways to get students involved and engaged in the library and reading. Outreach programs can be done in a variety of ways and in a variety of places. Some libraries host programs at the library, travel to schools, or host events at other community-center locations, such as a shopping mall. The collaboration between public and school librarians is important to help get students excited about the programs. School librarians can help by promoting the different activities offered to make sure all interested students are aware of the event offered.

Public libraries in Wicomico County in Maryland offer numerous outreach programs to help assist student learning. The librarians send out flyers and newsletters to schools that “describe educational activities that parents can do with their children. It summarizes developmentally appropriate books and the purposes for reading to young children” (Martinez, 2008). While flyers and newsletters may go unread by some, this could be beneficial for parents with full-time jobs who may not have the opportunity to attend different events. With the information provided by the library, they can still ensure they are helping their children grow as readers and can be involved in their learning. The libraries in Wicomico County also offer events at mall and other community organizations where they provide information about their different library services, and well as host story time events (Martinez, 2008). In my experience, children of all ages love to listen to stories read aloud. By hosting story time events at various locations, libraries can engage the community and hook children in to reading.

A popular way for public libraries to reach students is by making visits to the schools in the area. The libraries in Maryland host multiple Family Fun Nights at different schools in the area where they offer homework help, read stories, make crafts that go along with books that are read, and provide sample materials from the libraries (Martinez, 2008). These events are held after school hours, but the librarians make sure they offer exciting and engaging activities geared toward the students. Other librarians make visits to schools during school hours. During these outreach programs, librarians can do a variety of things with each grade level. Some of the activities that can be done during the school day are story times or book talks and discussions (Martinez, 2008). I work closely with a librarian from the public library in the city in which I live. The librarian makes frequent visits to my school to promote different activities going on in the library. One of the biggest programs she talks about is the 5th Grade Battle of the Books program. For this program, around fifteen books, both fiction and nonfiction, are chosen for the Battle. Students who want to participate form teams for the Battle. They are expected to read all of the books on the list and then compete in a “Quiz Bowl” type competition. The final competition takes place on a Saturday at the public library. The librarian visits the schools to kick off the Battle. She gets the students pumped up about the competition by showing trailers of a few of the books. This year, I had over half of my 5th graders compete in the Battle of the Books, and two of the teams from my school came in 1st and 2nd place! The public librarian had a very large role in this program by getting the students excited about the event. This was a very successful outreach program that involved a large population of our community.

Outreach programs can have a very positive effect on student achievement. This was shown in a program done in Virginia. The elementary school and public library in Northumberland, Virginia created an outreach program called One School, One Book. For this program, all families purchased the same book and read this book during a specified month. The elementary school also had designated times during the school day where students were to read this specific book. Teachers assigned homework about the book, as well. The public library made sure they had numerous copies of the book available to families who were not able to purchase it. Librarians at the public library also offered read-aloud times after school for anyone who wanted to attend. This program was widely successful and helped improved student test scores. “Over a three-year period following the program’s inception, test results had improved and students were found to be averaging 90% or better on a standardized reading test” (Leitaq, Barratt-Pugh, Anderson, Barblett, & Haig, 2015). This program involved the entire community and brought everyone together. Not only that, but students were achieving at a higher rate and performing better on state testing. This is an example of one way libraries can provide an outreach program designed specifically for students.

Public libraries can also provide outreach programs to students by offering after-school programs either at the library or at the school. This can be done by having public librarians collaborate with administrators and teachers to make sure they are providing support and activities that coincide with the school curriculum. An example of a program like this was done at the Portage Lakes Branch Library in Ohio. This program was very successful because all parties involved were motivated to help students succeed. “The school is enthusiastically collaborating with the library to provide services to children in the after-school program that focus on a multi-level, international, and performing arts theme involving multiple subject areas” (Harper, 2014). This program involved collaboration from both the public library and the schools to make sure the program was focusing on needs specific to the students involved.

In addition to providing programs to students in school, libraries can provide outreach programs to families with younger children who are getting ready to attend school. This was done by a library in Ohio, where staff members traveled to different neighborhoods, particularly at-risk neighborhoods, to provide programs to children under the age of five. The purpose for this was to help get the little ones ready to attend school. This program was called the Ready to Read Corps’ and was geared toward those who were not able to visit the library. The program’s main focus was to provide “prereading skills necessary for early literacy and kindergarten readiness” (Swell, 2012). Librarians went to different areas around the community, such as salons and Laundromats, to provide parents and children with the skills they’ll need when entering school. “During trainings, parents and caregivers receive a take-home kit that includes board books, finger puppets, crayons, and literature about prereading skills” (Swell, 2012). This is a great way to ensure parents are continuing to work with their children on fundamental skills that will strengthen their reading. Parents attending these programs can learn more and practice these skills at home without having to go to the library. This can be a large factor to some who might not have the time to actually visit the library. The librarians involved in this program stated, “We’ve learned we’re providing an invaluable service to parents, caregivers, and children in our community. The challenges we face are well worth our efforts to transform the lives of those who benefit most – our children” (Swell, 2012). An outreach program like that can be extremely beneficial to many children in a community. Parents want their children to succeed in school, and by offering an outreach program such as this one, libraries can help make this happen.

Outreach programs for students can take place in a number of different ways and locations. The most important factor in this is the collaboration between public libraries and schools. All parties involved need to collaborate to make sure different programs are provided for all learners. “School and public librarians have many opportunities to collaborate to meet the needs of their respective patron bases, share resources, and advocate for each other. Becoming knowledgeable and aware of the services provided by each, establishing systematic and effective communication about new initiatives and programming, and supporting the efforts of one another to provide quality services and resources to students is a good first step to developing a mutually beneficial collaborative relationship” (Harper, 2014).

References

Harper, M. (2014). Collaboration of School and Public Libraries. Ohio Media Spectrum, 66(1), 47-56.

Leitaq, N., Barratt-Pugh, C., Anderson, K., Barblett, L., & Haig, Y. (2015). Engaging Children in Reading for Pleasure: A Better Beginnings Project Linking Libraries with Primary Schools. Libri: International Journal of Libraries & Information Services, 65(1), 1-24.

Martinez, G. (2008). Public Libraries – Community Organizations Making Outreach Efforts to Help Young Children Succeed in School. School Community Journal, 18(1), 93-104.

Swell, K. (2012). Beyond Library Walls: Improving Kindergarten Readiness in At-Risk Communities. Children & Libraries: The Journal of the Association for Library Service to Children, 10(1), 27-29.

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