For this semester, I spent a good amount of time helping the outreach librarian, Dana, select picture books and board books for preschoolers at the Headstart preschools in Monroe County. Headstart is an organization that helps children from low income families begin building their literacy and social skills. Often, for many of these kids, this is preschool so Headstart’s goal is to get them ready for kindergarten. Dana goes to each Headstart classroom once a month to present a story time for the kids, and she brings along about 25 books that they can use in their classroom. Since many of these classrooms are low on resources, they depend on the library for these materials.
Once a week, I would specifically work with Dana and I would either travel with her to one of the Headstart sites, or I would spend time picking out books for the classes at the main library. I found out that there are a lot of considerations that go into picking out picture books and board books. For one, we as librarians want to promote respect for all human beings, so we avoid books that show stereotypes on gender, race, and ethnicity. We also consider the developmental needs that a child is going through; for example, younger kids need stories that are easy to predict, follow, have clear pictures, and vocabulary that challenges them, but does not prohibit them from understanding the book. This helps them become aware of how a story works and gets them used to the act of reading. Children also like structure and routine, and it is something that is calming for them. Babies, on the other hand, need sturdy books that will not break easily if they decide to try tearing them or putting them in their mouths, so board books are perfect for them.
Selecting books does not just mean that you follow a theme or you pick books that you liked as a child. You have to be aware of your audience and their needs. So, children’s librarians are always told to be aware of what kind of books are on their shelves and what purpose they serve to help developing kids. We also spend a lot of time reviewing books and looking out for new books ourselves. Even though this seems very easy to someone outside of the field, we always have to be conscious of our patrons.