Reading Pictures: Visual Literacy and Young Children
In August 2017 we convened librarians from 50 Vermont libraries for a one-day training conference. The goal of the conference was to increase librarians’ knowledge and skills to help build children’s visual learning skills. VCB provided books and hands-on materials (including art materials) and information to librarians.
Children’s literature expert Grace Greene and art educator M.C. Baker presented visual literacy and hands-on art activities to librarians, respectively. Some of the topics discussed in the first section of the day included questions to consider when examining picture books with an eye to preschool children’s learning experiences: How does the illustrator use perspective? How would a particular book change if different colors were used? How do illustrators show movement? What techniques do illustrators use to convey a narrative in wordless picture books?
Baker led small-group art activities so that librarians could experience them first-hand. These activities included:
- “Something Out of Nothing”: one person at the table draws a doodle and everyone takes turns adding something to the drawing until it becomes something else.
- Transforming an ordinary ballpoint pen into a special writing and drawing instrument (using clay and other materials). This showed librarians how children can look closely at everyday objects and notice design.
- Origami activities: using one square piece of paper and transforming it into something else.
Librarians were given a set of 11 picture books plus one professional book (Reading Picture Books With Children: How to Shake Up Storytime and Get Kids Talking About What They See by Megan Dowd Lambert and Laura Vaccaro Seeger; Penguin, 2015). The rest of the titles were published in 2016-17 and were selected for diversity in characters, genre, illustration, story and design. Librarians were each given an “art kit” so that they could replicate with children and families the activities they had experienced at the training conference.
What’s the BIG Idea? Math and Science in the Library
What’s the BIG Idea was developed with funding provided by the National Science Foundation. All of the content (activities, family programs, Discovery Centers) was first tested by 57 librarians from Houston Public Library, the state of Delaware, and the Clinton-Essex-Franklin Library System in upstate New York and new Vermont locations (Springfield and Bennington). These four systems provided a mix of libraries from large, small, urban and rural areas.
During the pilot phase these librarians engaged in four conferences focusing on ideas critical to children’s acquisition of basic math and science skills and concepts: Patterns and Relationships, Numbers and Operations, Change Over Time and Geometry and Spatial Sense. A National Advisory Panel informed the development of the program.
The participating librarians converted what they learned into hundreds of programs in local libraries using project-created informational resources, books, and hands-on materials. In addition, they enriched their circulating collections and outreach with kits for families. Available for purchase: What’s the BIG Idea? Librarian Starter Kit, Librarian Manual and family circulating kits.