Yesterday, I finished reading a hot-off-the-press book, published by ALA Editions called The Power of Play: Designing Early Learning Spaces by Dorothy Stoltz (an outreach librarian), Marisa Conner (a specialist in early childhood education), and James Bradberry (a designer) and I immediately wrote a recommendation once I had finished reading it.
It is a “must read” for anyone designing or maintaining early literacy library spaces or involved in early childhood education. This well-written, comprehensive guide includes everything you’ll need to know. The first section “The Magic Behind the Design,” translates research and theories of play into understandable language. Relevant vignettes illustrating ways children learn through play are interspersed throughout the text. The second section, “Play-and Learn Destinations,” describes a wide variety of early literacy spaces in all types of libraries with applicable, useful information whether your library is small or large, urban or rural, well-funded or underfunded. The third section, “Mindful Planning and Creative Design” includes formulas for choosing and maintaining toy collections, developmental tips that librarians can use with parents, sample surveys and evaluations, lists of companies and resources, replicable guidelines that can be used when developing grant proposals, and more. Quotes by children’s librarians and professionals involved in the field of early childhood education around the county are interspersed throughout the entire book.
In addition to being chock full of information and illustrative photographs, the emphasis is on the importance of purposeful play and joy. It is clear that the authors took their own advice when writing; the book itself is a playful, joyful read. With chapter headings such as “A Whack on the Side of the Head,” and entertaining short narratives of parent/child interactions overheard in early literacy spaces, The Power of Play is playful read as well as a valuable addition to professional library literature.
And if you are interested in finding out more about the power of play, read “We Play Here! Bringing the Power of Play into Children’s Libraries“, an article I wrote with Tess Prendergast, Christy Estrovitz, Carrie Banks, and Kim Van Der Veen for Children and Libraries magazine.