Kindergarten is unique in that students are often encouraged to learn through play. Mitchel Resnick states in his recent book, "Lifelong Kindergarten," that the rest of our learning - and indeed the rest of our life - should be a bit more playful like the earliest years of our learning. At home and in other informal learning environments, you can create engaging, creative learning opportunities. What results, particularly in the earliest years of education, from reading 20 minutes a day, counting to 20, or even sorting blocks by their color, is a better foundation for the concrete concepts that will form in formal educational environments. In the librarian world, we like to call this phenomenon readiness. Of all the gifts the library gives our community, the gift of readiness is the most precious by far. By engaging someone in their learning process and connecting with formal learning institutions and informal learning environments, by making the process of learning interest-based, the learner is able to gain readiness for whatever their next step may be. Think of the last time you tried to learn a new skill: what kind of research did you do beforehand? Did you consult someone with more experience or reach out to an expert? Did you watch a video or read a book? No matter how you chose to learn this new skill, how are you using it now? And would you feel comfortable teaching this new skill to someone else?
One of the most vital readiness moments can be found when working with the youngest students in our community who are heading off to school for the first time. The library can provide support for this important time; we have many resources for Early Literacy, including take-home kits that you can check out from the library that cover so much more than just your ABCs. In fact, did you know that you can prepare your young one for the rest of their life by fostering other kinds of literacies like numeracy, the basic building block of math, or other STEM concepts? The sooner that science, technology, engineering and math are introduced in someone’s life, the more likely they will succeed in school over the course of their life. STEM introduces skills that will help someone explore the unknown and be more comfortable with ambiguity, skills that will reach well beyond the classroom. Thrive by Five Washington is a local non-profit group that seeks to help parents and educators prepare for school-age learning needs. One of their lesson plans, STEM Early Learning, has a series of activities that you can do with the young ones in your life. You can learn more about these lesson plans and activities through this link care of the Spokane Public Library.
Recently, a few library staff attended the Leadership Kitsap Education Day and shared how readiness can be found across the lifespan of a learner. It was a lot of fun to see adults engaging in the kind of learning we provide at many of our early learning, school age and teen programs. We were also able to see how various strengths shine in group settings with adult learners! It was a fantastic experience to see readiness in action and to gain valuable feedback from our community leaders about the quality of learning we can provide.
Above: Leadership Kitsap is a great example of interest-based learning for any age group can be a fun and engaging way to share everything from early concepts to professional development.
College and career readiness is another kind of success that we try to build on at the library starting with our early literacy programs all the way through events for young adults. The library also offers community learning internships for young people between the ages of 16-25 through our Make Do Share program. By targeting this age group, the internship program seeks to create many opportunities for young people to thrive and become skilled workers that can improve the economy of our community over time. Recently, Emily Hillis wrote about her internship experience on the KRL blog and the research that she did to discover the rates of college and career readiness among adults in Bremerton. What she found was that nearly 9% of young adults aged 19-25 are unemployed and not enrolled in school. With that in mind, she set forth to forge partnerships with community leaders and presented her findings to help advocate for more opportunities for new adult programing. For Emily and her fellow young adult interns, learning from our community members contributes greatly to their readiness. For more information about this work with library interns, visit our Make Do Share guide.
Readiness is a behavior that we see across the board as an indicator of success in school, but when formal education ends, the way of measuring readiness becomes vastly different for every range of experience. What is your next step? How can the library help you get there? Readiness in adulthood is can be found in professional development or continuing education courses. It can also be driven through hobbies, from the art of Bonsai to repairing classic cars. The exciting part about this stage of readiness is that it is completely up to the learner as to what direction you hope to take next. Sometimes that direction is looking at the past - we have an amazing Genealogy Center that can help you time travel. Or maybe you hope to travel into the future with technology classes like our Open Computer Lab or One-on-One Tech Help! Whatever it is that you want to learn next, the library can help you get there. What we hope to do at the library is to provide opportunities for readiness to be fostered in our community learning spaces. Check out our classes and events for your next opportunity to gain your own kind of readiness.