There are countless websites out there in cyberspace about early learning, literacy, parenting and the role of libraries. Do we really need one more…?
The philosophical point of difference for this web portal is simple, and best reflected in a quote from the eminent developmental psychologist, Lev Vygotsky:
“The fundamental way in which a child’s higher mental functions are formed is through mediated activities shared with an adult or more competent peer.”
—Vygotsky, L. S. (1986). Thought and language. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
The child needs an adult and/or more competent peer to mediate their learning. But what nurtures the adult’s competence? How does a parent or carer learn to effectively mediate their child’s learning? By having, themselves, a competent mentor. While childcare or kindergarten educators are highly competent, unfortunately the nature of the work (ie, directly with children) means that they interact with parents largely in passing, at pick up and drop off times. I know this first hand, from my own time as an early childhood educator. Children’s librarians are uniquely placed, through our free public library early years programs and collections, to support, guide, reassure and inspire parents about the science and practice of early childhood learning and development. We don’t train to be parents, but children’s librarians do (or at least should) train to be childhood literacy and learning experts. And who is responsible for mediating the training of children’s librarians, so that they can attain this level of expertise? Competent leadership in their organisations and industry. At every level of learning, we each need a Dumbledore, a Mr Miyagi, a Yoda—and we each need to be one for another.
In short, the aim of this website is to help the mentors at every tier of the developing child’s circle of impact hone their skills and knowledge. This way, evidence-based leadership and teaching filters down (or perhaps I should say, filters in), from industry and organisation, to librarian, to parent/carer, and finally, ultimately, meaningfully, to the child.
Who Am I?
I’m Sarah the Children and Youth Librarian, and I’ve spent most of the last decade engaging with diverse families at various different Melbourne public library services, trying to pay back to communities the thousands of hours my son and I have spent attending free library programs throughout his childhood. (That’s him in the other photos on this page. In one, browsing books after storytime at Moorabbin Library, and in the other, vising the State Library of South Australia while holidaying in Adelaide.)
When I presented to the State Library of Victoria and the Public Libraries Victoria Network in May 2018, I was welcomed onto the podium with the following introduction:
“Sarah has a background in children and youth librarianship, family day care, theatre and music, editing and proofreading, and web design, among other odds and ends. These disciplines might seem disparate, but she finds a way to draw on them all in her library work! As a sole parent who practically lived at libraries when her son was young, Sarah is particularly passionate about family empowerment through free, accessible, community-based lifelong learning, and sees her early years library programs in particular as a forum for nurturing parents and carers, so that they in turn can enrich their children’s learning and development.”