The Institute for Research on the History of Children’s Literature is a non-governmental and non-profit organization that is officially registered and established in 2000. After years of research in the field of childhood history and culture as well as the status of children’s books in society, IRHCL believes that promoting literature, especially reading, among children and adolescents can cultivate the talents and mental potentials of the future generations and transform and enrich their lives. Therefore, with the aim of putting into practice its slogan, “all children have the right to read quality books”, the institute started implementing Read with Me project since 2011.
Read with Me project has managed to establish hundreds of child-centered libraries in classes, schools and localities in different cities and villages of Iran.
Read with Me libraries provide opportunities for children to experience a child-centered and rich literacy environment. They are places where all the elements and programs encourage children to read, talk and engage in book-related activities. Read with Me libraries are places where children enjoy comfort and happiness and can develop their creativity and imagination. Read with Me libraries are centers for expanding book-reading programs in nearby schools; as such, they are centers for the promotion of books and reading in different regions.
Having a set of identical standards, Read with Me libraries are active and dynamic centers which arrange for special programs in accordance with the general situation and culture of the regions. In the present document, you will read these standards and characteristics.
The purpose of this document is to inform people about the scope and methods of providing library services suitable for children’s needs and rights in the fields of reading and literacy. The intended audience of this document are librarians, promoters, managers of kindergartens and schools, institutes which intend to establish children’s and adolescents’ libraries, library students and all those who are interested in the promotion of reading and literacy among children.
The Objectives of the Libraries
Read with Me libraries follow these objectives:
- Promoting books and reading
- Providing all children, especially underprivileged children, with quality books
- Introducing and implementing reading-aloud as one of the most effective ways of promoting reading
- Improving skills for emergent literacy and basic literacy
- Practical use of the defined standards in Read with Me libraries and the expansion of Read with Me models in children’s libraries.
- Empowerment of librarians, tutors, teachers, promoters and parents in the fields of basic knowledge of children’s literature and reading-aloud and book-related activities
- Improving families’ awareness about the key role of reading in the comprehensive growth of children from infancy
- Promoting life skills and values as well as environmental values
- Establishing a cultural center in the region with the possibility of network building with child-related organizations and individuals.
- Introducing concepts and standards of Read with Me libraries by holding educational workshops and producing textual and visual content in connection with the topic
The Audience of Read with Me Libraries
According to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, any person below the age of 18 is considered as a child. Read with Me libraries provide services for all children, from babies and toddlers to adolescents, prepare appropriate sources for each age groups and plan for the implementation of various activities. In these libraries, there are reading materials special for adults about children’s literature and children’s education and growth.
The Characteristics of Read with Me Libraries
All Read with Me libraries follow the general set of standards and patterns of the program. At the same time, each library has its own policies on the micro level according to its situation, facilities, conditions and needs of its audience.
The general characteristics of Read with Me libraries are as follows:
- A Read with Me library is not merely a place for keeping and lending books to children and adolescents; it is a happy, dynamic and safe place where various book-related activities are carried out.
- The librarian in a Read with Me library is not merely a librarian, but a promoter of books and a manager and programmer of reading sessions, too.
- All the books in the library are quality books.
- The setting of the library is a child-centered and rich literacy environment.
- The library technical services are implemented by observing the established principles of librarianship, well-suited to the situation of the library as well as the characteristics of children and librarians.
- Special attention is paid to the two age groups of babies and toddlers.
- In the library, some programs are held for introducing books and writers as well programs according to the cultural events in the calendar.
- A Read with Me library hosts reading sessions and book-related art and theater activities on a daily basis throughout the year.
- In a Read with Me library, children and adolescents work as assistants to the librarians in activities such as reading for younger children, technical affairs of the library, organizing and cleaning the library, promoting reading, etc.
- A Read with Me library takes shape and continues its works with the cooperation of people and children and adolescents. Children, adolescents and parents are involved in all the affairs of the library.
- By becoming a member of Read with Me libraries, tutors, teacher and managers of educational institutes have novices and students covered by the library.
- The libraries host sessions with families to talk to parents about the importance of books and reading and methods of reading with children.
The setting of a Read with Me library is a child-centered and rich literacy environment. A child-centered setting has three characteristics:
- It is at the same interest level as children’s.
- It is responsive to children’s needs.
- It observes and respects children’s rights.
In a rich literacy environment, there are visual and textual elements to supports basic literacy skills.
In designing the setting and equipping child-centered libraries, due attention is paid to the physical characteristics of children and adolescents and their options are respected. Books are visible and accessible for all children so that they are persuaded and encouraged to take them and inspect their pages. Stationary and tools for doing activities are always available to children.
In Read with Me libraries, due attention is paid to standards of light and color in order to have a comfortable and appropriate atmosphere for reading and other activities by children.
Read with Me libraries host children of different age groups on a daily basis; therefore, special attention is paid to the safety of the library and the health of the audience. From the outset of establishing libraries, the library establishment team have always paid attention to the security of the building and the equipment used. Also, a handbook entitled “Safety, Security and Health” is available to librarians and all those involved in Read with Me libraries.
Establishing a standard and dynamic library requires an executive process: designing and implementing the setting, preparing book lists, library technical services, reading-aloud and related activities, etc.
It is necessary to get help from knowledgeable, educated, motivated and interested individuals in every step of the establishment and activities of the library.
Library Establishment Team
The library establishment team receives requests for establishing Read with Me libraries and upon the acceptance of the request, takes the following steps:
- Gathering required data about the characteristics of the region, dimensions of the room or the salon, resume(s) of the librarian(s) ready for work as well as volunteer promoters.
- Identifying and estimating library needs
- Writing a proposal for the establishment of the library and predicting necessary actions and expenses
- Finding financial supporter and signing contracts with the requesting individual or organization
- Consulting about and designing the library layout and setting for requesting individuals
- Making connection with the requesting individual or organization for the accurate implementation of the setting
- Selecting, preparing and sending library resources (books, magazines, book packages for schools, etc.)
Read with Me Library Supervision Subgroup
After establishing a library, the library supervision subgroup is constantly in contact with the local librarians and carries out the task of supervising over the accurate implementation of the programs and fixing probable problems. By receiving regular reports on library activities and visiting the libraries frequently, the experts of the supervision subgroup identify the library needs and attempt to gratify them so that the libraries could manage to maintain the desired efficiency and function.
The tasks of the library supervision subgroup are as follows:
- Training: Librarian(s) who join Read with Me family participate in training courses about children’s librarianship, children’s literature, reading-aloud and theater related to reading-aloud based on a program developed by the library training team.
- Supervising over the implementation of technical services in the library
- Checking reports on reading-aloud and related activities and guiding the librarian for enhancing and developing reading-aloud skills
- Managing and planning monthly sessions for librarians
- Managing and planning book clubs for active librarians and promoters
- Visiting the library
- Preparing periodical reports for the documentation of library activities
- Presenting development and annual reports to the supporters
Managing the Library and Librarians
The librarians and managers of Read with Me libraries should be completely familiar with the principles of this program and be aware of the importance of social activities and reading promotion especially in underprivileged regions. All the individuals involved in the management of the library such as the manager, the librarians and the associates to the librarians should participate in the training courses as the framework of Read with Me project necessitates.
The librarian in a Read with Me library:
- participates in training workshops held simultaneous with the establishment of the library and is required to make interested tutors and teachers familiar with this program.
- implements library technical services and lending with precision and order.
- plans according to children’s needs and the conditions of the region.
- holds reading sessions based on an orderly program.
- prepares documented reports of the sessions and sends a copy of the report to Read with Me
- is responsive to the Read with Me expert who supervises over the library.
- promotes Read with Me program in schools and educational institutes and at the same time, encourages teachers, tutors and librarians to join Read with Me
Any individual interested in books and promoting reading can cooperate with Read with Me libraries and perform reading-aloud and related activities for children after participating in courses on children’s literature and reading-aloud in the library or in other places (in schools, kindergartens, culture-houses, parks, etc.). Read with Me libraries are centers for providing books and supporting these promoters.
These ethical principles and beliefs prevail in Read with Me libraries:
- The use of Read with Me library services is free of charge for all children and their families.
- Only quality and expert-approved books are used in the library and children have access to all the books and resources available in the library.
- Differences are respected. All children have the right to use library services without regard to their gender, nationality, ethnicity, language, religion, ability and background.
- The librarians and the promoters are responsible toward the audience and responsive to the society. Children and adults have the right to freely voice their opinions and engage in conversation in the library while keeping respect.
- In Read with Me libraries, children’s private spaces are respected and librarians are bound by confidentiality.
- Read with Me library is like a safe and hopeful house for children so that in whatever hard situation they are, children would have a place as their refuge.
- All members of the library and the librarians are responsible for books and equipment in the library and cooperate in taking care of them.
- Read with Me librarians and promoters are constantly learning and developing their knowledge and skills.
- The management of Read with Me libraries is a group work and the cooperation of members and interested individuals in library affairs is welcomed.
Management and Development
For establishing and maintaining a library, finding financial resources is essential. Regarding the facts that membership in Read with Me libraries is free of charge and these libraries are not supported by any governmental organization, the life of the library depends on financial supports as well as local participation and management.
Clarity of financial resources makes accurate planning and decision-making about the expansion of library activities possible; therefore, in the first step of establishing a library, a proposal is prepared by Read with Me library team and presented to the supporter. The financial supporters make decisions about supporting the library based on their intended budget and their level of interest. Also, the percentage of participation between Read with Me program and the local applicant in the process of the establishment and the operation of the library is determined in a contract or memorandum of understanding.
Read with Me library team is responsible for informing the financial supporter about the establishment and also operations of the library in annual reports.
Read with Me libraries are centers for the promotion of reading and their activities are not limited to the library building. The librarian and the manager of the library are required to make contact with individuals and organizations interested in promoting books and to try to cover more children.
Schools, kindergartens and educational and cultural institutes can be in contact with Read with Me libraries and help the expansion of reading and literacy in the region. Nearby schools as well as far-away schools which do not have access to books can become a member of the library and hold reading-aloud sessions in their classes by borrowing book packages specifically designed for this purpose. Also, book packages are sent from the library to schools which are members of the library and books are read aloud in the classes; children borrow these books, too, in order to read in their families.
Attracting the Audience and the Development of the Libraries
The development and expansion of library activities in the two levels of quality and quantity is of great importance. Read with Me librarians have an essential and undeniable role in the improvement and expansion of libraries. Some of the promotional objectives of the libraries are predicting and answering the demands of the audience, making contact with them and attracting new audience. Librarians should do their best in introducing the libraries in various ways to local people and managers (village managements, municipalities, etc.) and remind them of the importance of the presence of children and their parents in the library and find ways with their attempt and creativity to attract those who are not in the habit of reading. The following solutions are examples for reaching this objective:
- Creating a friendly and intimate relationship with local people and cooperating organizations in working with children.
- Using various media for introducing the library (from installing ad posters to exploiting the potentials of the virtual space)
- Holding book fairs
- Holding sessions with writers, poets and illustrators
- Holding ceremonies on special dates related to children
Evaluation of the Libraries
Constant evaluation of the functioning of the library has a defining role in the continuity of the activities and planning for the future. To have an accurate and realistic assessment, it is necessary for the Read with Me library supervision subgroup to be regularly in contact with the librarians. The librarians make reports and detailed information and needs and challenges accessible to library planning and supervision teams so that the data be analyzed with their own help and new plans be carried out which are appropriate to the situation and conditions of each library.
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