In early fall of 2019, I completed a grant application through our local early childhood board. I proposed a new early literacy program called Little Engines. Each month, we will have an early childhood professional provide a storytime program with activities. These include literacy, nutrition, childcare, school readiness, music/recreation, creativity/arts, and STEAM. The library provides families a tote bag that includes various activities and a book to enjoy at home together. This is also a partnership program between our local school district, a local videographer, and public television. Although this is a grant-funded program, it is a simple program that anyone can adopt.
Our First Program:
In February 2020, we had our first program with Dr. Constance Beecher from the School of Education at Iowa State University. Dr. Beecher’s program focused on enhancing STEM learning through interactive activities for families to do together. The program began with a short interview with Dr. Beecher and it was conducted by me and Kelly Nesheim from Iowa Public Television. We did not have an audience in front of us however, we encouraged families to tune in via Facebook Live. The interview focused on the importance of family engagement and the questions that were asked include:
- Tell us a little about you and what you as an early childhood professional.
- What does family engagement mean to you?
- What are a few things parents, grandparents and caregivers can do each day to help engage with their child(ren)?
- Are there any specific resources that you can share on family engagement and resources that can help to generate ideas?
- What are going to be doing today for your program (discuss some of the activities you brought and the story(ies) you will be reading).
The interview was conducted in the children’s department storytime room. We repurposed the space to include an area rug, colorful setting, a few posters for a backdrop, and a table to showcase her resources. Dr. Beecher added the STEM backpacks created by her team. Follow this link for more information about their Checkout STEM program.
Following the interview, Dr. Beecher provided an interactive STEM storytime. She read the story, The Dot by Peter H. Reynolds. At the conclusion of storytime, families were instructed to participate in a variety of STEM activities including an art project, exploring the STEM backpacks, and a science experiment. All families were given a tote bag with coloring sheets, a bookmark, and a free book. Here is the link to her program. Please note that due to COVID-19, we are migrating this program to a fully online program. Additional updates and programs will be posted this fall.
Key Resources Recommended by Dr. Beecher
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The following are the steps to help you create your own Little Engines program:
Step 1: The Layout
It is important to consider the layout for this program. Some questions to consider include:
- What early childhood messages do I want to send to parents? What are the key topics I want to focus on?
- How do I want to share these messages? Do I want to record these messages, or do I want to share them live via Facebook Live?
- How many times per month do I want to do this program, and will it be tied to a regularly scheduled program?
Step 2: Needed Equipment
A key part of the Little Engines program is the use of a virtual platform to reach families. For this program, we purchased a tripod to fit both a tablet and a cellphone so we can record these videos. However, you could use a webcam and connect a laptop or desktop computer to record the videos. You will need to have access to a strong WiFi or ethernet for live videos.
Step 3: Recording Platforms
The following is a list of recording platforms:
- Facebook Live
- Google Hangout
Step 4: Finding Presenters
For this program, the presenters we located were from a variety of sectors including education, health, parks and recreation, emergency services, universities, and early childhood committees. It is important for me to emphasize that the presenters for the Little Engines program have experience speaking with people; however, they may not have experience on camera. It is important to reassure them and help provide guidance throughout this process. The following is a short list of presenters to whom we will reach out to participate in the Little Engines program:
- Iowa State University School of Education
- Boone Iowa County Conservation
- Early Childhood Iowa board
- Iowa Association for the Education of Young Children play committee
- Boone County Hospital
- Blank Children’s Hospital
- Reach Out and Read Iowa
- Iowa Public Television
- Boone Humane Society
- State Library of Iowa
Step 5: The Program
The Little Engines program has two phases. The first phase includes an interview between me, on public television, and the monthly guest speaker. This interview focuses on asking the speaker specific questions relating to family engagement. The objective for this interview is to provide parents an understanding of the topic, resources available to them and their child to learn more about this topic, and ideas on how they can engage with their child. The second phase is the program and some questions to consider include:
- What are specific topics that are in high demand for the families you serve? Some examples include healthy eating or the importance of physical activity.
- What space do you have available to host this program and is it possible to modify this space to meet the need of the partner?
- What will engagement between children and families include? For example, what activities can the partner provide in their program to encourage this engagement?
- How can we modify the program to meet a virtual platform?
- If possible, what giveaways can you provide to families, i.e., books, bookmarks, a tote bag, and/or a make-and-take craft?
Step 6: Advertisement
To advertise this program, we worked with Iowa Public Television to create a logo to include on posters and newspaper articles. We advertised on the local radio station, local newspaper, on our Facebook page and the community Facebook page, with the local school district, and the local human services committee. Canva is an excellent tool for us to use to create marketing materials at no cost.
Key Books Used for this Program