Every fall, we invite the local kindergarten classes to take a field trip to the library. We just wrapped up this year’s visits and it was a success with over 200 kindergarteners coming through! The visits have two components; first, they get a tour of the Children’s Department, which includes a stop in the computer lab to watch a book through Tumblebooks. We also show them the books for beginning readers and other collections that might interest them.
The second half of the visit is the really fun part: play literacy! This year’s theme was grocery store. We read the children a book about visiting the grocery store and then discuss all the things you might do at a grocery store, like being a customer or cashier or stocking the shelves. Then we go through the secret passage to the other side of our program room and they get to play in our grocery store, which we set up just for these visits (and is put into storage after). The kids get to try their hand at all the things we talked about doing at the grocery store. There are also plenty of opportunities for them to read and write, or pretend to read and write, so they build their reading skills while having fun. They could write out a name tag and shopping lists, and read the sale fliers and receipts.
It’s a special experience for the kindergarteners and one that makes an impression. Just last week a kindergartener come back the same day he had his field trip to the library. He told his dad he knew just where the train books were, and led his dad to the “Things that Go” section he found out about on the tour. Older kids sometimes tell us they remember coming to the library to play in our pizza parlor or flower shop when they were in kindergarten.
I should clarify that I can’t take any credit for this fabulous program; it’s entirely run by our Elementary School Liason. She’s helped by another children’s librarian who is also the unofficial graphic designer for our department. She’s the one who made all of our signs, receipts, shopping list pads, etc. We also get help from staff throughout the library who assist with the play portion of the program, which is a big help since it can be chaotic with multiple classes visiting at once (one will go on the tour while the other class plays, then they switch)–and the reference desk still has to be staffed!
Here are some more pictures of the grocery store, ready for customers!