April/May 2012 Report

Library Director’s Report- April/May 2012

Kids In Partnership teen tutors participated in a letter-writing campaign to help reinstate funding for California Library Literacy Services, including Redwood City’s Project READ. Here is a sampling of what they had to say:

“I am a tutor at Project READ. I have taught my buddy a lot, however, my buddy has taught me a lot as well. If I didn’t attend this program each week, I would not have the experience of helping a child who needs my help.” Jessica, KIP teen tutor, 11th grader

 “I am a tutor at Project READ and I think this is a great program for students. We help them with their homework and reading skills. I was also a part of KIP when I was their age and I feel really lucky to have the opportunity to come back and give my part to this program that helped me with my reading skills. I see the kids really enjoying time with their tutors…this program really brings tutors and their buddies together, by all of the time they spend throughout the years.” Karina, KIP teen tutor, 12th grader

 “I am a current KIP tutor, this is one of my first years volunteering in this community organization. I am more than thankful for having this opportunity as a tutor. I was once a Project READ learner, thanks to that program I was and have been able to prevail in the English language. I sought help since I did not know the language, but thanks to this organization, I was able to transition into honors English throughout my high school life…I am very proud of having this program around that provides young, anxious to learn students improve their skills.” Yxenia, KIP teen tutor, 11th grader

“KIP has let me help out my community and make a true impact to help educate the youth of Redwood City. Every week, the kids become smarter and more mature because of the helpful skills that KIP teaches them…it is an amazing program with amazing learners, tutors and group leaders.” Aliza, KIP teen tutor, 9th grader

“Project READ is a great program and not only helps the kids, but the tutors as well. It helps us see how little things can mean a lot to kids. Just having someone older that they can talk to about how their day went helps them become more social and teaches them how to have conversations. We form a bond with our little buddies and become good friends. In teen hour, it helps us tutors find out things about college opportunities that you can’t always find at school. This program helps many in more than one way.” Michelle, KIP teen tutor, 11th grader

“I am currently a tutor at KIP. I have been volunteering since I was a sophomore in high school (I am now a senior). KIP has honestly been an important part of my life since I myself was one of the learners as an elementary school student. KIP helped me with my reading skills, and did an extremely good job; I went from having the hardest time learning to read English, considering the fact that English was not my first language. Today, I am doing well in my English class and have managed to receive my school’s English award. I think that programs like Project READ and KIP are very helpful.” Veronica, KIP teen tutor, 12th grader

“I have been a tutor for this program for the past three years. I too was a KIP learner when I was in elementary school. I am now a high school senior, about to attend college. This program does a lot of great things. It makes the kids happy being here with their friends and tutors. I still remember being in Project READ/KIP when I was a child. I made a lot of great friends and memories. The leaders here are amazing and very nice to everyone else. This program means a lot to the children, just as much as it means to the tutors. KIP is a place to make friends and feel like family.” Karina, KIP teen tutor, 12th grader

The Youth Agenda (PRCS, PD, Library, Redwood City 2020) is piloting collaboration with the School District to expand learning and literacy programs and services at a school site this school year. This may include opening the library and computer lab, homework assistance, and family health and education classes.

The Library Foundation held a strategic planning retreat. Outcomes include: formally meeting and working more closely with the Library Board, increasing Foundation and Library communication to the community, selecting new projects to fundraise (e.g.: help offset the State takeaway to Project READ; explore a larger facility for the Fair Oaks Library) and Board development.

On Friday, April 27, KIP staff, teens and AmeriCorps members staffed a table at Redwood City’s Teens In Action Showcase at the Courthouse Square. One of our KIP teen tutors and several of Project READ’s teen tutors from the Young Dreamer’s Network were there to celebrate their community service and all of the wonderful ways that youth contribute to the bettering of the Redwood City community through tutoring.

Plans have begun to reconfigure the Downtown Library’s lobby to accommodate self-check in of materials, better customer queuing and one desk customer assistance. The Shores Library will have their self-check in system installed first. The new RFID check out system is hitting 95% of all transactions at Downtown and Shores; 75% at Schaberg; 50% at Fair Oaks (Fair Oaks will always be a high touch service model for all transactions). The new system has doubled the success rate of the previous self-checks, with a dramatic decrease in staff intervention for errors and/or assistance.

A new Farmers Market will open in the Shores Library parking lot on Fridays (the library is closed that day).

CLUB USA continues to offer new learning opportunities at the Shores Library. New weekly programs include Science-in-Action, Music-in-Action (for preschoolers!) and a photography workshop.

There was some serious talent, and a whole lot of infectious enthusiasm, on display Wednesday night at the Library’s annual Kids’ Talent Show. There were 34 performers in all, from gymnasts to guitarists to piano players with comic patter; kung-fu demos and a three-and-a-half year old reciting Cinderella, complete with song interludes. The audience of 150 clapped along appreciatively and parents beamed and snapped photos of their talented kids. The most unusual performance of the evening was by the 3rd grader who recited pi to the 121st power. Yes, 121 numbers, all written out behind him so the audience could check his astounding memory. For the past 21 years, librarian Jacky Averill has given Redwood City kids a chance to appear in front of an audience, developing self-confidence and stage presence and sharing the excitement of the performing arts. And who knows? Maybe when it comes time to give that oral report in 6th grade, or that presentation at the office down the line, having stood in front of a crowd at the Redwood City Library will be an experience that comes in handy!

Plans are in the works to update some of the displays for the Interpretive Center at the Shores Library. This will include offering a variety of environmental programs.

Over 500 people attended the Downtown Library’s Cinco de Mayo celebration of music, crafts, stories and food demonstrations! The Friends of the Library sold plenty of books at great prices, with proceeds going towards funding this and other great family programs.

For four years the Friends of the Library have been generously funding Family Author Nights, a program that brings bilingual authors and illustrators to Redwood City schools. This partnership has gotten so successful that it’s now become a regular part of the schools’ calendars, and, thanks to the Library Foundation, it secured a grant to expand to two new schools. The library is proud to present a program that highlights not only the importance of reading, but also the fun of it – a message that bears repeating in these times of reading for the test. We all know how much fun that is… In addition, Family Author Nights are held, as the name implies, in the evening, so that not only students but also their families can attend and hear the message. The presenter’s books are also given out free to students. Add the excitement of a book sale by the Friends of the Library, and la gran rifa (the Big Raffle), and you have a fun and memorable night all about literacy. With the addition of these two schools, a grand total of eight schools participated in Family Author Nights this year. That’s eight schools, 2,000 free books, and 1,500 people attending.

The Summer Reading Club starts June 7th, and thanks to the Library Foundation, will continue until the last day of August, with opportunities for readers, listeners, and parents to win prizes for reading books. The library will present a bigger, longer slate of programs all summer, starting on June 12 and continuing through the week of August 20.

National Volunteer Week was in April. We recognized and thanked many of our volunteers for their dedication, hard work, and commitment with a special event. In addition to the Project READ’s July bbq which celebrates hundreds of tutors and folks who help that wonderful program, this was a great opportunity to thank many other volunteers for giving their time to the library, including helping with homework, delivering books to the homebound, keeping the Local History Room open, reading to preschoolers and operating the Friends Bookstore.

In April, the Latino Community Council of Redwood City in partnership with the Library Foundation celebrated a very successful Día del Niño/Day of the Child with a Kermes in the parking lot of the Fair Oaks Branch Library and the Fair Oaks Community Center. The attendance increased dramatically from last year, raised almost $30,000, and we are planning to continue this great collaborative to raise funds for the Fair Oaks Library.

The City is planning to launch a new online donation website, Click and Pledge. The Library Foundation and Project READ will be options.

We are offering a new collaborative initiative with Bay Area museums. Our library card holders can get free family passes to some of the top museums. We are also again collaborating with the San Jose Art Museum to hold art classes in the Teen Room.

“As the twig is bent, so grows the tree.”


On a recent Monday morning in Washington, D.C., a group of 3-year-old preschoolers bumbled their way into a circle, more or less, on the rug of their classroom. It was time to read.

The children sat cross-legged as their teacher, Mary-Lynn Goldstein, held high a book, Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus. There was a short conversation about pigeons, then, for reasons that weren’t entirely clear, cows; and then Goldstein began to read. She read as most teachers read, occasionally stopping to ask a question, point out a picture or make a comment about the story.

In other words, it was a familiar scene — a scene that, on that very day, likely took place in every preschool classroom in the country. Preschool teachers do this, and have been doing it for decades.

“The thought was you read to children — that will make a big difference in how well they read later on when they’re in school,” says Anita McGinty, an education researcher who works at the University of Virginia’s Curry School of Education. “That’s still probably the biggest message out there: Read to young children.” 

But about 15 years ago, says McGinty, researchers like her started to look more closely at reading, trying to unpack exactly which behaviors helped children learn to read. In the process, she says, they discovered something surprising about the simple act of sitting down and reading a story through with a child. “It mattered a lot less than we thought it did,” she says.

It’s not that reading didn’t help a child to learn. It helped to build a child’s vocabulary, for example. But it didn’t necessarily improve a child’s ability to read, per se.

To figure out why, researchers embarked on a new round of studies — specifically, eye-tracking studies.

“What they would do is that they would put a child on their parent’s lap, and then they would use some special equipment that allows them to pinpoint exactly where the children are looking at any given moment in time,” says Shayne Piasta, a professor at Ohio State University.

They found that when you simply read a book to kids, they tend to ignore the print on the page. More than 90 percent of the time the children are focusing on the pictures, or they are looking up at the parent, she says.

Here, went the theory, was the answer: Learning to read is an incremental process; you become familiar with letters, then words; the practice of reading from left to right; and eventually you put all that together and begin to read. But if a child’s attention isn’t drawn to the printed word, then reading to a child won’t necessarily make them more familiar with what it means to read.

And so new questions emerged. How could teachers change what children saw and thought about when a book was being read? And how much difference would that make? If disadvantaged children who often have reading troubles were made to think more about print at a very young age, would they become better readers later on?

Reading Changes Made A Difference To Children

To answer these questions, McGinty, along with Piasta and a researcher named Laura Justice, designed a research study to look at the effects of modest changes in the way preschool teachers read to children. McGinty and her colleagues decided to target disadvantaged preschoolers because they frequently end up with reading issues.

For the study, they gave two groups of preschool teachers books for an entire school year — 30 weeks’ worth of books. One group was told to read the books normally; the other was given weekly cards with specific questions the teacher could ask — really just small phrases — that might momentarily draw a child’s attention to the print on the page.

The teachers were told to read their books four times a week, and to point out the print in this way between four and eight times, so that together the small phrases hardly added extra time to their reading sessions — maybe 90 seconds per book.

It is hard to imagine that such a small adjustment would make any difference. It was a series of moments, questions and gestures. How much could that do?

So far, the kids have been followed for two years. They are now in first grade, and according to the most recent findings, which were published in the journal Child Development, even these small changes make a measurable difference.

“Children who focused their attention on print … had better literacy outcomes than those who did not,” says Piasta. “It was very clear.”

Understanding The Details Of Learning

But how much should we trust this? Positive results from interventions like this frequently are lost over time, overwhelmed by the reality of bad schools and poor support at home. This was, after all, such a modest adjustment.

The question is almost a philosophical one: How big a difference can small changes make?

The fact is, this study is part of a broader effort that’s been going on in education research for the past 20 or so years. Education researchers are attempting to break down in minute ways how teachers (and parents) should interact on a moment-to-moment basis with children in order to promote their learning.

It’s one focus of the field right now, and there have been some encouraging findings. But it’s still not clear whether interventions like this have real staying power.

“Findings like this are at a very high risk of fading out,” says Scott McConnell, a professor of educational psychology at the University of Minnesota. “But let’s talk about why they might fade out. There’s no reason to believe that an intervention like this, provided to 4-year-olds, is all these kids will ever need. They are going to need sustained intervention that takes advantage of the growth that they’ve achieved here.”

Without other programs, gains are easy to lose, he says. He also points out that it’s hard to implement preschool programs like this broadly, because at the preschool level there’s wide variety in teachers’ skills.

But he still believes programs like this are important. It’s simple, he says: “As the twig is bent, so grows the tree.”


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