The break-out sessions I attended were eclectic, informative, and even entertaining. Dr. Perri Klass, the National Medical Director of Reach Out and Read (and a renowned author and pediatrician) presented the amazing Reach Out and Read program, in which doctors are trained incorporating children's books into the care and advice they give infants, toddlers, and their families. Starting at 6 months, babies receive developmentally appropriate books to take home, and doctors demonstrate how to share them and what to expect. The doctors share all that good information about why it's so important to read with kids, and they emphasize that it's as important as making sure your child has clean teeth.
What is so fabulous about this program is that doctors see SO many different kinds of families. We librarians mostly just see the families that take their kids to the library - we're NOT seeing the millions of families who don't go to the library. But doctors not only see rich and poor alike during Well Child visits, but they see many of the families who most need early literacy information.
Their reach is tremendous - much more than what even the most energetic outreach librarian could accomplish - and so you can bet I'll be getting information about the LA Public Library into the hands of my local Reach Out and Read coordinator. And I'll make sure that I include information about our Adult Literacy Program and its Families for Literacy component, because some of the parents are partially or totally illiterate.
During the session on Play: The Science Behind Its Importance to Literacy Development, we played with sticks and pipe cleaners and household objects while we learned from Linda Hassan Anderson, Senior Director of the NAEYC Academy for Early Childhood Program Accreditation, how different kinds of play are crucial parts of early literacy. We all know that for kids, learning is play, but I didn't know about constructive play, symbolic play, socio-dramatic play, and more. What Ms. Anderson made clear is that not only do children learn through play itself, but that play is such a strong motivator ('cause it's fun!) that it should be built into any good early childhood program.
I thought about the early learning areas we're adding to our libraries, with their toys and comfy seating, and am happy to have more arguments in my arsenal about why libraries need toys as well as books.