Pathfinder is a series of blogs about intrepid library staff who are leading interesting programs that you may not yet know about.
I've worked with Lisa Giannotti for a number of years. A gentle, considerate, and kind person, Lisa has a degree in Child Development and has worked with young children and families most of her life. She has been working in a job that she truly loves and finds inspiring for the past 6 years in the Early Education Services Department (Early Ed) at Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Library.
Under the leadership of Araceli Delgado-Ortiz, Early Ed quickly pivoted to a virtual environment in 2020 by providing online storytimes, programs for preschoolers, and special storytimes where books were read by prominent members of the community.
As libraries continued to provide services to customers via Express Services, the need for read-aloud thematic collections of books soon became apparent.
"We were getting asked to recommend and/or provide books for a number of different community partners and organizations during the pandemic. With the libraries being closed, there was a real need for this. A grant became available through the California State Library, and one of the projects that was available was a book bag with books centered around a certain topic."
Thus, Wee Read! Books to Go and Grow was born out of this need.
California State Library Grant
Early Ed applied for a grant called the Library Services and Technology Act (LSTA) grant. I became familiar with this grant originally when San Jose Public Library's grant-writer applied for a grant to train staff how to do Inclusive Storytimes.
The federally funded Institute of Museum and Library Services funds the California State Library grants, which in turn awards funds to eligible California libraries. San Jose Public Library has successfully implemented several grants, so Early Ed was invited to submit a proposal.
Lisa tells me these grants help California’s libraries to:
- respond effectively to local needs and align services with local community aspirations
- support experimentation and research and development in California’s libraries
- provide training and support in grant writing and grant management for the California library community
"in order for projects to be funded through the LSTA they must follow a few guidelines which include following the State Library's current LSTA five year plan and adhering to the general guidelines for LSTA eligibility."
Because COVID-19's shelter-in-place restrictions deeply impacted children's mental health and social growth, Lisa and her team realized that a big need was to provide material that enriches the social and emotional lives of children.
The Good Stuff: What Kinds of Bags Will You Find?
Lisa curated and prepared bags based upon the following topics. There are 12 different bags at this moment, under 3 headings.
- Voices in Our Community Series
- Celebrating Asian/Pacific Islander Voices in Our Community
- Celebrating Black Voices in Our Community
- Celebrating Latinx Voices in Our Community
- Celebrating LGBTQ+ Voices in Our Community
- Celebrating South Asian Voices in Our Community
- Children & Social Emotional Learning Series
- Acknowledging That Life Can Be Scary
- Children Searching for Their Place in Life
- Making Friends
- Managing Feelings
- Having Bigger Conversation Series
- Helping Children Talk About Separation Anxiety, Loss and Grief
- Talking to Children About Social Justice
Find out more about check out rules and what each bag contains.
How Do I Benefit?
According to Lisa, the bags will provide:
- Validation - Many of the books can help children feel safe and loved, and encourage children and families to communicate honestly and openly with each other.
- Diversity - Celebrating all people in the communities we live in is important as we want children to see themselves in a story, no matter their culture, race, gender, family makeup or ability.
- Support - Provide a way for children to talk with adults about what's happening in their lives, in a safe, calm setting.
"By reading books together about grief, making friends, or finding your place in life, these books will provide children the words and the outlet they need to process these complicated feelings."
Lisa tells me that she worked with the other partners and members of the community (which included child care providers and early education specialists) to formulate themes for the bags.
"These were based upon feedback we were all receiving from the families we were working with. Not surprising, the topic of social-emotional growth for children came up time and time again. The consensus from this large group of partners was that children were suffering both emotionally and socially due to the circumstances caused by the pandemic."
In the Library's database, Articles - In Depth Search, an article by Patrick W. Stephen, etal, "Well-being of Parents and Children During the COVID-19 Pandemic: A National Survey" talks about how the financial stress caused by food insecurity, the loss of health insurance, and the pause on child care created stress for parents, which trickled down to children. In addition, children experienced the loss of friendships and relationships due to remote learning. The depths of the effects of social isolation are unknown currently, but will most certainly impact children's relationships in the future.
People like Lisa and her committee members recognized the future unknowns and have sought to minimize any negative impacts. She feels that Wee Read! Books to Go and Grow is a program that can only contribute positively to families. Lisa says,
"Any family, I hope, can find a bag that speaks to them and read the books together. And that’s what we want; families, caregivers and children reading together. There are tip sheets inside that can help as you talk about the books and what happened in them."
If you have any questions, please leave a comment below!