Libraries for Health & Wellbeing: early literacy programs
I’ve been writing about the ways public libraries support the health and wellbeing of their communities, and am continuing the series with a spotlight on a great collaboration between libraries and a health organisation, made possible with grant funding from State Library Victoria as part of the Libraries for Health and Wellbeing statewide development program.
In May 2021, Casey Cardinia Libraries and City of Greater Dandenong Libraries partnered with Monash Health to embed engaging and relevant information on mental health, wellbeing and nutrition into their established early literacy programs — Baby Time, Tinies’ Time and Storytime.
The initiative aimed to improve health outcomes for their communities in the southeast metropolitan area of Melbourne. It achieved this by employing a Health Promotion Officer who developed evidence-based content for library staff to disseminate through programming and guidance. This information was aimed at both children and their caregivers. Formal training sessions on the topics of mental and physical health and healthy eating were given to staff involved with facilitating early literacy sessions. This prepared them to deliver their programs with confidence in discussing these important topics.
The team at Monash Health supported the program by providing expertise in the recruitment of the Health Promotion Officer, acting as a sounding board in determining the topics to be explored during the early literacy sessions, and vetting content before it was delivered to the community by library staff.
The health information was then embedded into special Storytime kits that library staff used to guide each session. They include curated book lists, songs, craft ideas, games, key messages for staff and take-home fact sheets for caregivers. Topics include:
- growing food at home
- drinking water
The best part is that these kits are freely available online for other libraries, teachers and caregivers to use! The library staff also recorded some book recommendations and published them on Youtube:
Reflections collected by State Library Victoria from the project lead and support staff indicate the program will continue in some capacity, specifically the healthy eating portion, which was delayed to COVID-19 restrictions and subsequent resource constraints.
The role librarians play in supporting the development of children cannot be understated. Librarians can often be the first person outside the family unit to support a child’s development; they do this primarily by reinforcing parents'/caregivers’ role as their child’s first teacher.
Some Victorian librarians are trained in the Abecedarian Approach or Parent-Child Mother Goose methodology. These approaches focus on upskilling parents/carers with skills and resources to extend the learning from early literacy sessions at the library into the home.
Adding a specific focus on health and wellbeing topics, as the two libraries featured here have done, helps ensure the next generation of readers are physically active, healthy and mentally fit.
Learn more about the role public libraries play in supporting the health and wellbeing of their communities in the Libraries for Health & Wellbeing strategic framework, developed by State Library Victoria and Public Libraries Victoria, and keep an eye out for further posts spotlighting more great work being delivered in our public libraries.
Thank you to Ivy Tucker & Cenza Fulco.