FLLS Literacy Partnerships Successfully Draw to a Close

Our two 2011-2013 NYS State Library grant partnerships drew to a close last month, and we’re delighted to share the details about these successful literacy partnerships! We would be happy to share any advice or answer any questions if your library/library system is interested in setting up a similar project. Contact us anytime at 607-273-4074! If you’d like to peruse some options for funding opportunities, please visit our resource list at www.flls.org/grants.

Computer Literacy in Tioga County: Teaching Job Skills to Job Seekers and Beyond

Patrons at the Waverly Free Library learn how to navigate the web.
Patrons at the Waverly Free Library learn how to navigate the web.

FLLS partnered with  Literacy Volunteers of Broome/Tioga, Inc, the Apalachin Library and the Waverly Free Library to provide free, professionally-taught computer courses to patrons. During this two-year period, a Literacy Volunteers training coordinator led 5 rounds of a 10-part class series at each local library in basic computer literacy, MS Office, web searching and job search skills.  Anyone was eligible to sign up, including residents in other counties. These classes offered essential opportunities for people to bridge the digital divide in a very rural area where broadband is not widely available, particularly given that computer literacy has become a necessity for virtually all jobseekers, even those who do not work in a traditional office environment.

Each library also received several laptops equipped with MS Office as a training lab. These laptops were available for in-library checkout to any patron, and will continue to circulate indefinitely. The libraries also each received funding for building a local collection of resources related to jobseeking and career development, which they used to acquire books, circulating tablets, and test-prep training software.

The classes were very well received by patrons, and waiting lists were frequently necessary. Participants were asked to self-assess their knowledge and skills before each class, and then rate them after class. This 1-5 scale rated as follows: 1=I cannot complete any of this task; 3=I can complete this task partially or with assistance; 5=I can complete this task independently. In Year 2, participants increased their knowledge and skills from an average of 2.08 to an average of 3.99 on this 1-5 scale.

Some participants have also already reported back to the instructor that the classes had been integral to helping them advance their careers. One attendee of the Fall 2012 series in Waverly learned enough skills to enter a BOCES Adult Ed training program, and is currently enrolled in those classes. Another Waverly attendee from the Spring 2012 series, reported obtaining employment in a clerical position thanks to the skills she learned. Likewise, one attendee at the Apalachin classes went on to attend the computer training program the instructor referred her to – the Attain Lab in Binghamton. This attendee had lost her retail position in 2011 because her employer was never able to reopen after the September flood. She noted the skills she gained in our library computer literacy program enabled her to advance to the higher level of training (MS Office Certification) offered at Attain, thus allowing her to apply to a much wider range of positions.

Overall the classes were deemed a great success by everyone involved. Both libraries reported that the classes filled a need that they could not provide on their own to to a small staff, and they brought many new users into the library. They would both love to resume classes in the future if they can find the funding. Likewise, the libraries offered an ideal, nonthreatening environment for Literacy Volunteers to offer their services.

WOW: World of Words Baby Storytimes

According to the research of Hart and Risley (2003), there exists a 30,000 vocabulary word gap between students from poor families and their more affluent counterparts.  Given the statistic that an 80,000 word vocabulary is necessary for success on the verbal portion of the SAT (Neuman, 2010), the need for a strong vocabulary and comprehension foundation for all children is evident.  “The first building block of future reading ability is learning to understand and speak language” (Blakemore, 2006).  The WOW! Literacy Project provided baby storytimes and multi-age family storytimes that helped parents and babies build that foundation.  According to the 2000 Census, 11.5% of families in Tompkins County were living in poverty.  Combined with the FLLS survey result that only one library in our 33 member system was providing a designated baby storytime, the Wow! Literacy Project  increased that by scheduling 144 baby storytimes and  84 multi-age family storytimes with targeted literacy skills for babies in year 1 of the grant cycle.

In year 2 of the grant cycle, the libraries who attended Mother Goose on the Loose and Susan Neuman’s workshop were surveyed in October to see if they used the skills learned to begin their own baby storytimes. Of the attendees surveyed for the Love Songs for Babies libraries, 2 reported they began a storytime as a direct result, 4 reported they have incorporated the techniques into their storytimes while others reported it as a refresher. All attendees found the classes to be valuable to their libraries.

Library storytime providers became skilled at presenting early literacy techniques to babies in  direct storytimes and by incorporating baby read-aloud basics in multi-aged storytimes.  An example of these anecdotal comments from each workshop is:

Dr. Susan Neuman Workshop on May 31, 2012,  fifty-eight participants learned:

The information on constrained skills and unconstrained skills was very informative.  As a storyteller and preschool teacher I feel better informed and able with parent communication and program planning.

Dr. Betsy Diamant-Cohen Workshop on June 28, 2012,  twenty-three participants learned:

New ways to use nursery rhymes and the flannel board; including lullaby each week to calm down.

Dryden and Trumansburg were selected as part of the grant to run 144 baby storytimes and 84 multi-age stortyimes over the course of two years. Throughout these storytimes, the combined attendance was 1851 adults and 2206 babies/children.

In year two of the grant, the Family Reading Partnership was involved with the Love Songs for Babies Tour. This tour included 10 libraries in the Finger Lakes Library System: Ulysses Philomathic Library, Southworth Library, Waverly, Tappen-Spaulding  Library, Aurora, Kellogg, Seneca Falls, Weedsport, Lodi and Cortland.

The Love Songs for babies performances at 10 libraries had a collective attendance of 66 kids and 65 adults.

The performances were well received despite the low attendance. Kits will be cataloged and distributed to the libraries in mid-august.

Ulysses Philomathic Library and the Southworth Library plan to continue their baby storytimes. Any libraries that are interested in conducting baby storytimes or that are looking for storytime resources are encouraged to contact Amanda Schiavulli for training and resources.


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