Libraries Emerging as Leaders in Parent Engagement

Phi Delta Kappan article by Donna C. Celano and Susan B. Neuman

The Every Child Ready to Read program encourages parents to interact with their children using the five practices of early literacy: singing, talking, reading, writing, and playing. The program is reaching children in high-need communities who are likely to enter school less prepared their wealthier peers. Every Child Ready to Read has found that libraries hold a unique advantage in fostering parent education. Nearly every community has a library and their services are free. Finding partnership with other agencies has also helped expand their reach to parents and families who can most benefit from their services.

Elevator Speeches

How to use value-based language to advocate for library services to children & families

Evaluation Report

Bringing Literacy Home: An Evaluation of the Every Child Ready to Read Program (2017)

Libraries are taking a proactive approach toward engaging parents and caregivers supporting the early literacy development of their children, and the Every Child Ready to Read® (ECRR) @ your library® Program is an excellent tool to ensure libraries’ success. These were two of the key findings of a study released in November, 2017, by Dr. Susan B. Neuman, a professor of childhood education and literacy development at New York University. Currently more than 6,000 libraries have invested in the ECRR Toolkit, which is used to implement ECRR in the library. ECRR is based on two core concepts: reading begins at birth, and parents are a child’s first and best teacher.

In 2013, the Public Library Association (PLA) and Association for Library Service to Children (ALSC) received a grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services to conduct a national study on the effect of library programming on parent behavior and engagement using the ECRR model. From 2013-2016, the research team observed and evaluated storytime programs at 57 library branches representing 36 different library systems across the country. From that group, 20 target libraries were selected for the study—ten that were deemed to be strong implementers of the ECRR curriculum, and ten that were not. Neuman et. al. observed significantly greater engagement of parents and caregivers in the libraries that used the ECRR program: these libraries offered more opportunities for parents and children to interact, more parents-only workshops, and more diverse program offerings.

“Although seemingly simple, the ECRR initiative represents a sharp turn in the way many libraries approach children’s services,” the report reads. “Previously, librarians focused their attention primarily on children, not on parent education. Today, librarians see that they can have a greater impact on early literacy by focusing on the primary adults in a child’s life – parents and caregivers.”

Press Talking Points

So you have an interview coming up with a local TV or radio station or a short speaking engagement at an event or conference. Excellent! This is a great way for your library to get important early literacy messages to a lot of people in a short time. The reality is though, that you will likely only have a few short minutes to communicate a lot of information. To help you successfully meet this time challenge; we’ve compiled these talking points – everything the world needs to know about ECRR & Early Literacy in compelling and short points.

Please note that if you are contacted by any national press organization, (such as NPR, the Huffington Post, The New York Times, etc.) regarding your ECRR programming, we ask that you contact us ( immediately so that we can provide you with important information and also coordinate the interview via the ALA Press Office.

First, a few tips on preparing for your interview

Have talking points (see below for ECRR talking points). You should always go into an interview with at least three key messages or talking points that you want to make. Focus on making those points, no matter what questions are asked. Guide the interview.

Bridge to your key messages or talking points. If a question seems off topic, bring it back around to what you want to say. For example, you might bridge by saying “That is an interesting question. I think the issue at hand is…”

Be concise. Give answers that are brief, and always answer in complete sentences. This way the reporter will not have to edit your statement and you are less likely to be misquoted or taken out of context.

Limit industry jargon. Use terms familiar to the general public to ensure your message is clearly communicated.

Let us know if you plan to mention Every Child Ready to Read! Email us at We can answer questions or provide you with information you may need to prepare for your interview. Again, if you are contacted by any national press organization regarding your ECRR programming, it is important that you contact us ALSC/PLA immediately so that we can coordinate via the ALA Press Office.

Talking Points – Every Child Ready To Read

Your Mission–State your library’s mission regarding early childhood literacy and detail your library’s early literacy programs (1 or 2 at most). Emphasize that “the library has research-based early literacy workshops and supporting materials to help parents and caregivers get children ready to read.” Mention that the library’s early literacy programs are derived from the American Library Association’s Every Child Ready to Read program, a research-based series of practices that can help young children develop essential literacy skills that will help them get ready to read and on the right path to school readiness and student success.

Key Message to Return to Throughout Interview — Emphasize where possible that “Learning to read begins at birth.” and “Parents and caregivers are a child’s first and best teacher.”

Educate listeners/viewers–Emphasize the five practices, talking, singing, reading, writing, playing — as well as the importance of parental involvement. Remind listeners that parents and caregivers are a child’s first and best teachers. Let listeners know that program also is available in Spanish (if this applies to your library). Using the five simple but effective practices, parents and caregivers can help children develop early literacy skills, that will get them ready to read. Go over the five practices:

1. Talking: Talking with children helps them learn oral language, one of the most critical early literacy skills. Children learn about language by listening to parents talk and joining in the conversation.
2. Singing: Singing develops language skills. Slows down language so children can hear the different sounds in words. Helps children learn new words and information.
3. Reading: Reading together develops vocabulary and comprehension, nurtures a love for reading, and motivates children to want to learn to read.
4. Writing: Children become aware that printed letters stand for spoken words as they see print used in their daily lives.
5. Playing: Play is one of the best ways for children to learn language and literacy skills. They learn about language through playing as the activities help them put thoughts into words and talk about what they are doing.

Personal Story — Emphasize that the library’s early literacy programming is based on the ECRR research and the five practices. What is the end result of your program (that is, why should the audience care?) Add a personal story of someone (or some family) who has benefited from your programs. In addition to attending your library’s programming, make it clear what listeners can do to support early childhood literacy – i.e., the five practices: Talking, Singing, Reading, Writing, Playing.

Further Information – Library Plug– Clearly give your organization’s contact information. Provide address, phone number, and website url and repeat where possible.

Video Clips – English

Video clips from PowerPoint presentations

The PowerPoint presentations in the ECRR 2nd Edition Kit contain video clips. As a service to purchasers of the kit, for ease of downloading, we are also making the video clips available here.

How to download video clips:

Right click on the video clip you’d like to download. In the window that opens up, click “save target as” or “save link as.” A “save as” window will open, allowing you to browse for the location where you want to save the file.

Fun with Words for Parents and Children

Slide #11
Parent & Childhood Workshops, page 74

Slide #12
Parent & Childhood Workshops, page 75

Slide #13
Song Language Toddler.wmv
Song Language Infant.wmv
Parent & Childhood Workshops, page 76

Fun with Letters for Parents and Children

Slide #8
Teaching Letter.wmv
Parent & Childhood Workshops, page 43

Parent Workshop

Slide #15
Denny and Tanner.wmv
Parent Workshop, page 17

Slide #16
Stretching Language toddler.wmv
Parent Workshop, page 18

Slide #17
Songs & Language.wmv
Parent Workshop, page 19

Slide #22
Pretend Reading toddler.wmv
Kristi and carly.wmv
Parent Workshop, page 24

Slide #25
Pretend Play toddler.wmv
Parent Workshop, page 25

These video clips may be used only by those who have purchased the Every Child Ready to Read 2nd Edition Kit. The following credit statement must appear on any handouts, websites, or other materials developed by the library, outside of the materials provided in the ECRR toolkit. This permission is granted with the condition that the materials you create and use are for educational purposes only (not for resale).

“Every Child Ready to Read® @ your library® is a program of the Association for Library Service to Children and Public Library Association, divisions of the American Library Association. Every Child Ready to Read® @ your library® is a registered trademark and is used with permission.”

Video Clips – Spanish

Spanish-language Video Clips

These videos are designed to help illustrate the ideas in the slide sets available in the Every Child Ready to Read® @ your library® Toolkit for Spanish-Speaking Communities; plan to use them during your workshops.

How to download video clips/mp4 files below: Right click on the video title/link you’d like to download. In the window that opens up, click “save target as” or “save link as.” A “save as” window will open, allowing you to browse for the location where you want to save the file.
If you’d like to download the original, larger versions of the clips [40+ MB], click on the Vimeo links provided.

Stretching Language – Toddler [4 MB]
(Download original on – Stretching Language)

Pretend Reading – Toddler [5 MB]
(Download original on – Pretend Reading)

Sharing Books [5 MB]
(Download original on – Sharing Books)

Pretend Play – Toddler [5 MB]
(Download original on – Pretend Play)

Wordless Books – Toddler [6 MB]
(Download original on – Wordless Books)

Ordering Pizza [5 MB]
(Download original on – Ordering Pizza)

Talking to Increase Vocabulary & Compehension [3 MB]
(Download original on – Talking)

Teaching Letters [3 MB]
(Download original on – Teaching Letters)

Many thanks to Waukegan Public Library for creation of these videos.

Additional Resources

“The Five Practices and The Early Literacy Components Support Each Other”
Help for relating the five practices of ECRR2 to the early literacy components of ECRR1.