Public school kindergartners gain new skills from a partnership

Learning in the library

December 28, 2007|By Laura Shovan | Laura Shovan,Special to the Sun

Kindergartner Madi Costigan stood on her tiptoes at the desk of the Miller Branch library, reaching up to hand the librarian a picture book and her library card. Regular patrons waited in line while Madi and her Worthington Elementary kindergarten class checked out books, many of the children doing so for the first time.

The students were visiting Miller as part of a partnership between the Howard County Library and public school kindergartens. The field trips draw children and their families to the library, but also teach students map reading and literacy skills.

"It ties in with the A+ partnership," said Miller's children's services supervisor, Stacey Freedman, referring to the library's A+ Partners in Education program.

"We wanted to get kindergartners into the library," said Freedman, who led Madi's class on a tour of the Ellicott City facility. "We wanted them to get library cards. ... It seemed like a good fit to have a field trip."

The library and public schools have phased in the field trips along with the advent of full-day kindergarten. This school year, the goal of the program is for every kindergarten and pre-K class in Howard County to visit a library.

Although the partnership has been in place for five years, this is the first time kindergartens across the county have participated. The trip is free to schools this year because the school system's office of early childhood is covering the cost of busing.

Said Susan Morris, early childhood specialist for the library: "It's part of the [library] goals for every child to have a library card."

Before the trip, kindergarten teachers distribute library card application forms. "We have brand new library cards waiting for many of the children" when they arrive, said Freedman.

The library encourages parents to chaperone, so they will learn -- along with their children -- about the library as a community resource. "We're trying to reach the families of those children also, either by their coming [along] on the visit or by the information that the children take home," Morris said.

To prepare for the trip, students learn about maps at school. They look at symbols for library resources such as books, audio books, music and DVDs. "We work together with the public school system with agreed-upon symbols to use," Morris said.

Worthington's kindergarten team leader, Peggy Phelps, said her students "talked about the library and what kinds of things they thought the library had, and we compared it to the media center at school."

Morris said the trip is more than a simple, hourlong visit to the library. "It's pretty involved with all the pieces," she said. "It's kind of a challenge to fit in the tour, the mapping, the story time, the book checkout."

Usually, two kindergarten classes visit a library at once. Worthington students began their recent trip by singing and dancing with the librarians. Then they split into groups, each with a librarian who took them on three different rotations -- a story-time, the book checkout and the tour.

Kindergartner Parker Jones chose the book Library Lil to check out. "I like motorcycles," he said, pointing to a cartoon motorcycle on the book's cover. Parker said his favorite part of the tour was the library's fish tank, even though he noted, "The water's kind of greenish."

Students had maps to follow during the tour. Kindergartner Alex Swaters checked his map while his group went through Miller's children's area. "Are we going to explore the library?" he asked.

Freedman said the library's book drop was "the highlight of the morning. ... We let the kids take turns running outside, dropping a book down, and all the other kids go, `Ooh, aah.'"

When Freedman asked her group what they liked about the library so far, Madi Costigan said, "I like everything."

Organizers hope that visiting the library will encourage children to enjoy reading. But it also teaches specific literacy skills. After the visit, each class gets a "little book that their class completes that's put out by the public school system," Morris said.

The booklet, My Class Visited the Library, was created by a Laurel Woods Elementary kindergarten in 2005. It incorporates library symbols, asks students what they saw and did during the visit, and gives them a place to draw their favorite thing about the library.

Said Phelps: "We thought it was really very well done. The library was very well organized" and prepared for the children.

"Hopefully, this is the beginning of their using the library as a resource for their schoolwork and education," Morris said. "It can be a challenge to make the library an exciting place, but I think our children's services supervisors do a really good job."

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