Early Literacy Station blends learning, fun at Baker County Library
Baker County Library has unveiled a computer station tailored especially for use by toddlers and kids up to age 10. The AWE Early Literacy Station (ELS) features an interactive touch screen monitor and over 50 educational software programs in both English and Spanish. Purchase of the unit was made possible by funding from the Baker County Friends of the Library and a grant from the Oregon State Library’s Ready to Read Grant Program.
“We sought this station out in response to parental requests,” says Library Director Perry Stokes. “It provides a safe, stand-alone computer not connected to the Internet that is age-appropriate, engaging and academically relevant for young children.”
“One of the library’s primary missions is to help parents start building literacy skills during the critical learning years of infancy through early elementary school,” Stokes added. “Today, one’s literacy skill set involves not only how to access information through books, but through computer technology as well. It’s important to have a balance.”
Launched in early February, the ELS unit has already proved to be a hit. “The day we put it out kids were just drawn to it,” says Melissa Shafer, the library’s Children’s librarian. “It’s reserved for kids aged 10 and under but older ones have been lobbying us for access. We remind them that the library has provided many computer stations suitable for their age group for years. Toddlers have been a little left out, but now they have a super cool option.”
Children find the ELS appealing, not only because of its colorful keyboard and large touch screen monitor, but because the computer mouse is sized for their small hands. For extra fun, the library added special kid-friendly headphones to the unit with animal-themed ear pads such as pandas, tigers, and bears. “We have two sets of headphones attached, so another child or parent can listen to the same program,” Stokes said. “Or the parent can browse nearby.”
Aside from the aesthetics, many of ELS’s programs encourage exploration and contain disguised learning scenarios that expand a child’s experience through games and extension activities. Educational software covers seven curricular areas: reading, math, science, social studies, writing, arts and music, and reference. The multimedia and educational content has been evaluated by early childhood specialists, educators and family focus groups using the latest developmental models and standards. Annual updates will keep the content current and relevant. Particularly attractive to children are programs “tied in with popular culture, like ‘Sesame Street’ or ‘Dora the Explorer.’
Early Literacy Stations are now used in more than 35% of public libraries across the U.S and Canada, according to the unit’s vendor. “This ELS in Baker is a kind of pilot project to see how kids and parents like it,” said Stokes. “It should help us gather usage data we can include on grant applications to then get additional units in our branch libraries.”
The total cost of an ELS is about $3,500. Persons able to contribute toward funding additional units at other branches can donate to Baker County Friends of the Library, Attn: ELS Fund, 2400 Resort St, Baker City, OR 97814.