By Janet Ingraham Dwyer, Youth Services Library Consultant
State Library of Ohio
I’m sharing notes from the sessions I attended at the 2012 Public Library Association Conference in Philadelphia last month, in hopes that this information will be useful to the youth services community and others.
Training home child care providers to foster early literacy skills can powerfully impact the school readiness of three and four year olds. The session, Tracking Children’s Early Literacy Skills, described a scientifically-based study administered at the Carroll County (MD) Public Library that documented this impact. Program speakers included Dorothy Stoltz, Outreach Services Manager, Carroll County PL (firstname.lastname@example.org); Elaine Czarnecki, Literacy Consultant, Resources in Reading (email@example.com); and Connie Wilson, Programming Specialist (Retired), Carroll County PL.
The purposes of the session were to share an overview of the Carroll County study related to research needs for libraries, to highlight connections to ECRR, and to present other options for researching the library’s impact on early literacy skill development.
The speakers made a case for “Why Conduct Research?”:
- To determine answers to questions including: What are we doing that works? What doesn’t work? What can we change or modify to be more effective?
- To gather meaningful data to make a case for funding.
- To add to the research base for public library research.
The speakers discussed the Early Literacy Training Assessment Project, an LSTA-funded study using the Early Literacy Skills Assessment tool published by High/Scope to track the children’s progress. This assessment measures 4 early literacy components: Comprehension, Print Awareness, Alphabetic Principle, and Concepts about Print.
The library’s original conceptual question was: Can we develop an effective training package to help home providers raise kindergarten readiness? They developed a training which included a primary workshop (4 hours for providers, 2 hours for parents) and a follow-up workshop 6 months later. They also maintained contact with participants throughout the program, which improved follow-up and retention.
Important concepts of the program included:
- Clarity of goals
- Use of well-planned strategies
- Identification & promotion of researched, developmentally appropriate best practices
The overarching goal was to improve school readiness for children. A secondary goal was to have parents participate in best practice in their activities with their children.
The Carroll County study used a pre- and post-survey with participating providers. Results showed that the training had a positive impact on their understanding of key early literacy principles and their self-concepts as professionals.
Research study outcomes for Carroll County included that it increased the early childhood community’s perception of the library as a school readiness resource, resulted in the library being invited to more community collaborations, increased financial support from sponsors, and an expanded role at the state level.
Carroll County has gone from 19th to 1st ranked statewide in the Maryland Model for School Readiness scores.
While focusing on the Carroll County experience, the speakers also described various research designs for investigating cause/effect relationships, such as experimental research (creating groups by random assignment) and quasi-experimental research (using groups that already exist). They discussed formative design experiments, in which data are collected systematically to inform practice, to reach a specific goal. They also discussed the value of informal data collection, such as observation and anecdotal evidence.
Several handouts and the PowerPoint from this session are available at http://placonference.org/programs.