“My town officials think all we’re running here is a babysitting service” a librarian recently shared in a moment of frustration. She went on to mention studies about the proven impact on cognitive abilities when toddlers are actively engaged in library programs like Lapsit versus passively engaged with toys & videos.
This was news to me; my how the educational product companies and toy manufacturers had shaped my understanding! I also hadn’t thought of toddler programs as educational initiatives. When I’ve seen adults and toddlers together at the library, I’ve usually thought “oh, aren’t those kids adorable” and “I’m glad people are getting together to have fun“. Though it now seems obvious, the educational and literacy component of Lapsit was lost on me.
This last point was intriguing, so I did some quick research. I googled “Lapsit” and got plenty of results from library websites around the country. I clicked through to the top 20 (all different libraries, by chance) and searched for the terms literacy and education in the page content, in images or as part of the navigation.
- 80% made no mention of literacy or education in conjunction with Lapsit
- 20% contained the term literacy, and of those, half (10%) contained the terms literacy and education
Clearly these stats don’t tell the whole story, but they tell a good one about the help libraries need presenting information to the public.
Last month, library consultant Larry T. Nix (a.k.a. The Library History Buff) wrote about libraries’ success with early education programs in Little Kids and Public Libraries.
The science behind the importance of learning in children ages birth to three is overwhelming. Public libraries have proven they can implement excellent programs to serve this age group. The public education community is struggling to implement four year old kindergarten much less provide programs for this age group. There is a tremendous opportunity for public libraries to take ownership of learning in the most important years of a child’s life.
Why are public library administrators not recognizing and seizing on this opportunity. Why can’t we come up with major national and state funding programs to help public libraries take a major leadership role in this area?
A National Public Library Corporation could do precisely what Larry suggests to help public libraries take a leadership role in early childhood education.