In September 2018, OPL’s West and Eastmont branches began a pilot program offering an exciting and fun way for kids ages 3-5 to boost their language skills and school readiness. The First 5 Alameda County funded early learning backpacks available during family storytime and play café are a huge hit. Early literacy specialists understand parents are a child’s first and best teacher.These backpacks are designed to provide opportunities for rich interactions, fun, and learning by providing materials and books for families to use together.
The backpacks are not part of our traditional collection. Families can simply choose a backpack, sign it out on a clipboard, and enjoy the rich contents inside to explore math, science, literacy and/or social skills at home. The following week families can exchange the backpack for one of the other 30 themed backpacks. The backpacks are see-through and full of educational activities, toys and books in English, Spanish, Chinese and/or Arabic. A child doesn’t need to know that each backpack’s contents were painstakingly put together by experts at First 5 Alameda and are meticulously connected to California kindergarten readiness standards. Children are drawn to the joy of engineering a bridge, examining bugs, taking care of a baby doll, or reading a book about a garden. Many families come back week after week because their child is excited to choose their next backpack. It has become an important part of their weekly routine and something special they do with each other.
Some caregivers ask for advice such as “Which Science backpack will teach my child the life cycle of a butterfly?” or “Which Social Skills backpack will help my child learn how to resolve conflicts with their friends?” Working in partnership with First 5 Alameda children’s librarians meet quarterly to engage with the materials and how they relate to aspects of the California Preschool Curriculum Framework to help make better recommendations. It is a joy to see the pride and excitement in a child’s step as they leave the library with their choice for the week snugly on their back and knowing that it is a tool to help them build the skills they need to be successful in kindergarten and beyond.
~ Celia, West Oakland Children's Librarian
Five Key Areas of School Readiness for Children include:
- Promoting physical well-being and gross and fine motor development
- Promoting social, emotional and self-regulation skills
- Developing approaches to learning (awareness of how one learns best)
- Fostering literacy and language development
- Instilling cognitive development and general problem solving skills