Our library has partnered with our local Wood River Parks and Recreation Department to offer a weekly children's program for kids (ages 5 and younger) that combines gymnastics and motor skills with literacy.
The library provides staff and a story for story time; the parks department provices the gymnastics equipment and space for the little ones to play.
The main goal of Roll-n-Read was to get cross-use between the library and parks and recreation department. We first discussed doing programming together as soon as I started working at the library in June 2015, but it finally came to fruition in January 2017.
We hold Roll-n-Read once a week on Tuesday at 9 a.m. The parks and recreation supervisor and I meet weekly to plan the theme for each Roll-n-Read; each session is planned about a month in advance. Each month is themed for stories and skill(s) to learn, with stories usually themed to what skill we are learning (rhyming words, letters, colors, etc). I try to incorporate stories that can get them moving. I also look at stories that go with holidays, but I generally pick a theme for the entire month. We've done dinosaurs, construction, things that go, dogs, letters, colors, weather, etc.
We started marketing in November 2016 via social media and printed fliers (see Attachments at the right) at our respective locations. The first few months we averaged nine kids at each program. Now we have quite a few kids who do multiple library events and also sign up for parks department events.
It's hard to say what the cost is. The biggest cost is personnel time, as the materials are things we already have. We use books the library has in the collection, and the gymnastics equipment was already purchased by the parks department.
Because the parks department already does another gymnastics program, the cost of new items is mutually beneficial, and the library hasn't had to pay for anything.
Before each program I set up the gymnastics equipment. I've been blessed to not have any challenges — I've been setting that equipment up alone for years, and can do it in about 20 minutes. Although the program is held in the parks and recreation building — so their staff is around — I run the program by myself. Parents/guardians stay with their child for the program.
When the kids arrive, I have a sign-in sheet that includes a waiver on the top (under Attachments), so signing in equates to the participants signing a waiver. We start with a story, then do a quick stretch, and I give a description of how to use the equipment (if there are any special instructions). After this, the kids are allowed to free play, during which I usually wander around and help with skills. We then conclude with a second story, a good-bye song and a stamp.
The program plays out nicely each week. We now average about 15 kids each week (21 on a high week and 10 on a low).
Parents and kids love Roll-n-Read. Parents love that they can see if their child will enjoy gymnastics before paying for the classes. Plus, their children get their wiggles out (especially during winter months).
I have increased attendance at other story times, and kids from Roll-n-Read are now signed up for gymnastics (or other sports). Older siblings are getting involved with both the library and parks department.
If you want to replicate this program, my first piece of advice would be to find a partner organization that has the equipment, as it's not cheap. Relatedly, talk to physical education teachers for ideas on how to do cross-curricular things. For example, we do a lot of gross motor skills mixed with literacy (e.g., jump on the letter and say the letter name/sound).
Always make sure you are being safe with the gymnastics equipment. Reading the story time stories is easy; it's the gymnastics portion of things that could be tricky. If you really want to do this, I recommend shadowing someone who does a baby tumbling class. You'll see what sorts of things to do and how to embrace the safety aspect.
About This Library
Wood River Public Library services approximately 10,500 people in the city of Wood River, Illinois. We focus on community growth and involvement.