Preschool Early Literacy Programs in Ontario Public Libraries: Final Report

Children motivated to read, ready for school after participating in Ontario Public Library preschool literacy program, OISE research shows. “Early literacy library programs have had a noticeable impact on children’s literacy behaviour and on parent/caregiver-child interactions in their homes”, according to Drs. Shelley Stagg Peterson and Eunice Jang, Department of Curriculum, Teaching and Learning at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education (OISE) at the University of Toronto. Commissioned by the Federation of Ontario Public Libraries (Federation), Peterson and Jang led OISE’s research to provide empirical evidence of the ways in which preschool literacy programs in Ontario public libraries (1) facilitate participating children’s early literacy development and school readiness, and (2) influence family interactions supporting children’s literacy learning. Multiple data sources were used to enhance the reliability of the results, including surveys of parents/caregivers, observations of children during program sessions, and interviews with library staff across 10 public library systems. Highlights of the evidence gathered are: • Participating children demonstrated many early literacy behaviours and understandings considered by leading early researchers and experts to be foundational to later literacy success. • Early literacy library programs were particularly strong in meeting parents’/caregivers’ goals of fostering children’s school readiness and their motivation to read. • Library staff served as excellent literacy models for parents/caregivers, enabling them to make reading with their children more engaging and more productive. “Perhaps now, the Ontario Ministries of Education and Children & Youth Services will consult more extensively with the public library sector when developing provincial literacy strategies such as Best Start Child & Family Centres. To date we’ve been pretty much overlooked,” said Jim Bennett,...