With 33 Branches, 2 Bookmobiles and a strong online and digital presence, the Ottawa Public Library (OPL) is in your neighbourhood, your child care centre, your child’s classroom and your home. With core values that include “access and inclusion”, “bilingualism”, and “love of reading”, OPL and its employees are great resources. If you are looking for accessible collections, story time programming or expertise related to early literacy, OPL is here to help.
Children’s Services employees offer early literacy programs in the Library and out in the community for example at early learning and care centres and schools. Employees are trained in presenting engaging programs for children and also in educating parents and educators on best practices for preparing children to read. OPL uses a curriculum called Every Child Ready to Read, which is based on five simple practices which parents and caregivers can easily integrate into everyday activities. These practices include: Talking; Singing; Reading, Writing and Playing.
Studies show that children who have been read to during the first five years have a major advantage in learning language skills. Reading together, or shared reading, remains the single best way to help children become proficient readers. Talking with children helps them learn oral language and develop vocabulary and narrative skills which are important for later reading. Singing and rhyming helps children to become more aware of the sounds in words, which translates to decoding skills. Writing goes hand in hand with reading to help children learn that letters and words stand for sounds and that print has meaning. Finally, playing is one of the key ways that children learn about their world. Play increases knowledge, which means that children will be more likely to understand stories whether they are being read to or reading themselves.
OPL’s Every Child Ready to Read programs include stories, activities, songs, puppets and rhymes to help develop pre-reading skills. Free programs are offered across the city for babies, toddlers, preschoolers, families and older children. Library branches offer regular weekly and special programming during March Break and summer months. OPL employees also make outreach visits to early learning and care centres and schools across the city to present programs.
Children’s Services employees, especially at OPL’s larger branches, receive training in order to present programs to children with special needs. Through in-house training, webinars, and conferences, employees work to improve their knowledge of how best to meet the needs of the customers we serve and the customers we hope to serve. One example is a recent focus on serving children with Autism Spectrum Disorders. OPL employees are looking at what libraries in other communities are doing and talking with parents, educators and caregivers in our community, in hopes to create even better programming and welcoming library spaces. Employees recognize that families may worry about bringing their children into the Library’s traditionally quiet and serious environment. Public libraries have changed and are probably noisier, more active community hubs than some people realize. We want to learn more about the best ways to be welcoming and accommodating for all of our customers. We invite you to communicate with us about your needs and wishes.
OPL provides a number of accessible services, collections (large print, braille, eBooks and audio books), and assistive technology (Kurzweil 3000, JAWS, Dragon Naturally Speaking, ZoomText, BrowseAloud, trackball mice and large print keyboards). You can find out more about all of our collections and services on the OPL website, and on the Accessibility Services page. Talk to Children’s Services employees at your local branch to find out more about early literacy practices and programs at the Ottawa Public Library, your Public Library!
Written by Elizabeth Thornley, Coordinator of Children and Teen Services
Ottawa Public Library