New computers boost literacy
“We wanted to provide a computer just for kids that would help build skills in literacy, math and science,” said Brian Hare, youth services manager at the Cleveland Heights-University Heights Public Library. “These computers allow children to focus exclusively on these skills because they have no Web access.”
Hare is talking about the new Early Literacy Stations at the Lee Road, Coventry Village and University Heights libraries. Early Literacy Stations (ESLs) are computers designed for children ages 2 through 8 that feature preloaded educational games and resources, instead of Internet access. The keyboard is colorful, the mouse is child-sized, and the interface is easy to navigate, depending as much on images—smiling faces and arrows—as words, so children at various literacy levels can use them easily.
The ESLs are designed to support the Public Library Association's national Every Child Ready to Read initiative, which Heights Libraries has been following since 2004. Every Child Ready to Read empowers public libraries to assume an essential role in supporting early literacy with curriculum, guidelines and materials that focus on the importance of early literacy activities for children's later success in learning.
Heights Libraries initially obtained two ESLs when the Noble Neighborhood Library was renovated in 2010, as part of its new literacy-based playroom. Staff tracked the usage of the computers and, after two years, recommended the purchase of additional stations, two for Lee Road and one each for the University Heights and Coventry Village libraries.
“Ours are continually in use,” said Constance Dickerson, Noble Neighborhood Library manager. “We are always happy when children choose to use them over the Internet PCs. This happens quite a bit!”
The stations feature such programs as Homework Help, which gives school-age kids a wide variety of learning resources, including guides for writing book reports and science reports, and online reference sources such as the Encyclopedia Britannica, a dictionary and a world atlas. For the younger set, there are multiple games that teach numbers and letters, and read aloud to children while they follow the words on the screen.
The stations also offer a service to parents and other caregivers—they give kids a fun, educational way to stay busy while mom and dad get some work done nearby.
Sheryl Banks is the marketing and community relations manager for the Cleveland Heights-University Heights Public Library.