Literacy in the Environment (LITE)

Longtime CWILLer Vi Hughes shares with us some tips for incorporating early childhood-literacy into more child-friendly landscapes, as inspired by her project Literacy in the Environment (LITE).

LITE’s goal is to support the development of literacy skills in pre-schoolers by placing foundational reading experiences in play spaces, public spaces, gardens, everywhere children go.

I created it and worked with a city planner friend to reach out to communities, asking them to look through a child’s eyes and find ways to make public spaces ‘child-friendly.’

Child-friendly reading experiences are ones that are contextually meaningful, age-appropriate, at child height and fun. Print that invites questions and collaborative talk.

Reading Lights (more below) was a wonderful way to do this.

Here are some examples of LITE installations. Some of these I consulted on. Others were initiated and completed by others.

Pictured (L-R): playground-adjacent public art in Vancouver, train-track-adjacent playground signs inviting questions, hydro box in Vancouver (Georgia Street) celebrating Indigenous heritage, rainy day chalk poetry (appears when wet), “Let’s talk about” vocab/word clouds adjacent to subject, Chief Dan George poem mounted outside a park in North Van, forest-based story walk, playground signage at toddler-height, “buddy bench,” labelled bins, park-based story walk, two more examples of playground signage at toddler-height, park/lawn-based story walk, “1-2” rhyme stairs, VPL-CWILL BC StoryLight picture book panels (Richards St., Vancouver).

Inspiration for Libraries, Teacher-Librarians & Childhood Literacy Groups

The possibilities are endless (and details more in this Literacy At Play toolkit), but here are some that are fairly easy to do and relatively inexpensive:

Child-Friendly Main Entrance

Most public libraries open onto adult sections. Make a welcome sign pointing to the kids’ book section, with some current titles displayed inviting them to come read. Imagine an interpretive sign (at child height) with bright covers of books or other eye-catching, friendly, and eye-level displays.

Do a ‘Story Walk’

Reproduce pages from a children’s story or picturebook and place along a path.

This can be done very simply or mounted for greater durability. Be sure to get permission from the publisher and creators, and credit the originators of this initiative.

Photo courtesy of Nikki Bergstresser, author of Lila Lou’s Little Library. StoryWalk hosted by FVRL.

Book Murals

These can go on an outside wall or inside, and range from temporary to permanent, collaborative to commissioned.

Pictured: Kawerau Library book mural, photo by People’s Network, (CC BY-NC 2.0

Rainy Day Poetry

This semi-permanent chalk art only appears when it gets wet. Create rhymes, excerpts, and/or art at the entrance to the library or in its public spaces for people to discover. Learn more: article + shop

Buddy Benches

Place a large cut out of a book character onto a bench in or outside of the library. More permanent versions may engage a sculptor.

Kids can sit beside the character, read a blurb, and then borrow the book—plus it’s a great photo op!

Book Panels or Boards

Print panels or sandwich boards with poems or excerpts from current books. Make them bright and informative, including the titles and how to find them in the library.

These can be made for a range of costs, depending on how temporary or sturdy you want them.

More Permanent Projects

Print or etch a poem or excerpt from a book onto a rock, metal sheet, or on the pavement.

This entry was posted in activities for kids, classroom activities, juvenile fiction, libraries & librarians, literacy. Bookmark the permalink.

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