By Katie Lehman Ready Readers Supervisor, Muncie Public Library—
Muncie, IN—If 2020 has taught us anything it is that a lot can change in a very short amount of time. For Muncie Public Library’s Ready Readers program, that amount of time was two weeks. In two weeks, we took a program that emphasized the power of individual face-to-face instruction without the use of technology, and made it entirely virtual.
Since its creation in 2016, MPL’s Ready Readers program has provided free one-on-one individualized literacy and reading tutoring sessions to local children, both at the library and in the participants’ homes. The program has always put a strong emphasis on the value of building relationships and face-to-face instruction. Until recently, the program had never incorporated the use of any type of technology in its sessions, as staff felt it took away from the student/tutor interaction. When the pandemic hit, and things began to shut down, staff had to begin thinking about how they could best continue to serve and support the families in the program, while keeping themselves and the program participants safe.
Shortly after the library closed in mid-March to align with the quarantine orders, a parent reached out to inquire if sessions would be possible via Zoom. Knowing that we still had to find a way to serve our families, I agreed to look into how a Zoom session could work. I spent the next two weeks learning the ins and outs of Zoom and figuring out what resources could be used to keep students engaged while using the online platform. On April 6, we held our first session online. While there were some kinks to work out, the session was a success. Our student, who was only 3 years old, was able to engage with us almost at the level she would have in a normal in-person session. We knew that if we could have a successful session with one of our youngest participants, then we could make this new platform work.
Since April, the Ready Readers staff have held over 300 virtual sessions with 44 different program participants. While we were hesitant to change at first, this new approach has made our program even more accessible for families. We can hold sessions almost anywhere now thanks to technology. In addition, we have created video content featuring additional early literacy games and activities as a resource for parents and caregivers. According to the feedback we have received, parents and caregivers are grateful that the program has been able to continue. One parent told us, “Thanks so much for all you and your staff do for my daughter and all of the other Ready Readers kiddos. It’s been great having something “normal” to do.”
Moving forward, we have decided to keep virtual sessions as an option either for families who do not wish to have sessions at the library/in home or for situations where those two options may not be possible. We have always been dedicated to serving our families, no matter the circumstance, and will continue to do so.
The Ready Readers program is currently full, but interested parents or caregivers can call Program Supervisor Katie Lehman at (765) 747-8224 for information about the program. They can also get learning materials for their child. Helpful videos for early literacy are also available at munciepubliclibrary on youtube.com.