'Supercharged Storytimes': Ph.D. students offer practical advice in book

Storytime may be fun for kids, but it’s also a chance to put their developing brains to work. Using the right techniques, providers can promote early literacy without turning storytime into a chore.

But how do you know which techniques are effective? Information School Ph.D. candidates Kathleen Campana and J. Elizabeth Mills have teamed up with early literacy consultant Saroj Nadkarni Ghoting to answer that question. Their new book, “Supercharged Storytimes: An Early Literacy Planning and Assessment Guide,” offers research-based effective practices to storytime providers. The book recommends simple interactive ways to emphasize early literacy techniques and encourage children to use and practice their pre-reading skills.

“We wanted to bring these research findings to the practitioner community in an accessible, hands-on way,” Campana said.

The book grew from work begun by the late Eliza Dresang, Beverly Cleary Professor of Children’s and Youth Services. Dresang and her research team designed Project VIEWS2, a study at the UW iSchool funded by the Institute for Museum and Library Services. Campana and Mills were researchers on the study. The study sought to develop tools and methods for measuring early literacy behaviors in public library storytimes. The data demonstrated a correlation between the content offered at storytimes and the early literacy behavior of children in attendance. The study also showed that providers can make a difference in early literacy development by taking an intentional, interactive, community-based approach.Published by ALA Editions, “Supercharged Storytimes” is aimed at those who are planning and delivering storytimes to young children – new providers who are just beginning to plan their programs as well as seasoned veterans who are looking for new ways to make a difference in their communities.  

“So often research findings don’t reach the practitioner community until many years later. With this book, we have the incredible opportunity to impact practice immediately and hopefully contribute to the growth of the field,” Mills added.

These effective practices have already been incorporated into the MLIS program at the iSchool in a course originally designed by Dresang, called “Libraries as Learning Labs in a Digital Age,” taught in part by Campana and Mills. It was Dresang’s plan to publish a book for practitioners based on the VIEWS2 research.

“We are pleased and honored to have been given an opportunity to fulfill this wish and bring pertinent research findings to the field to make a positive impact on practice,” Mills said.

Campana’s research at the iSchool focuses on the information behavior of children, as it relates to their learning in informal environments, and the adults and technology that support their learning. She has served as a research assistant on the VIEWS2 research grant for all four years.

Mills, who earned her MLIS degree at the iSchool, has a background in children’s literature as an editor and author. She studies assessment practices of multicultural storytimes using design research methods. She was a research assistant on the grant for three years and a student researcher prior to that.