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The Power of Play: Designing Early Learning Spaces
Dorothy Stoltz, Marisa Conner, and James Bradberry
Item Number: 978-0-8389-1255-3
Publisher: ALA Editions
Price: $55.00
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224 pages
8.5" x 11"
ISBN-13: 978-0-8389-1255-3
Year Published: 2015
AP Categories: A, C

Read a sample of the book and check out ”Talk, Sing, Read, Write, Play: How Libraries Reach Kids Before They Can Read”, an NPR story, now!

Don’t simply accommodate families with young children—draw them in and make your library a destination! In this hands-on guide, an early childhood specialist, a designer, and an outreach librarian take you step-by-step through the process of designing an early learning space that fits your space limitations and budget. With a strong focus on making play spaces welcoming for parents, caregivers, and children while reducing stress for library staff, the authors

  • Use current research to explain the importance of play in regard to early literacy and learning
  • Show how underutilized spaces of any size can be transformed into play spaces, with planning secrets for small, mid-size, and large play environments
  • Offer tips for reinventing reading nooks as “playscapes” that encourage fun and play 
  • Present models of successful early learning spaces from across the country, with illustrations and floor plans
  • Suggest ways to motivate adults to help young children develop a sense of discovery, energizing adults and children alike to pursue the lifelong enjoyment of learning
  • Include sample guidelines, surveys, and plans to help you adapt your play spaces to the needs of your community
  • Present a vendor list, tips for cleaning toys, worksheets, and other tools for pulling it all together, from engaging library staff and community partners to hiring architects and contractors

With the help of this book, you can transform neglected spaces into joyful places that help parents inspire their children to learn.

Check out this title's Web Extra!

Table of Contents

Introduction: Entering the Play Dimension

I. The Magic behind the Design
Chapter 1 Harnessing the Play Dimension
Chapter 2 A Jumping-Off Place
Chapter 3 Activating the Power of Play
Chapter 4 Guideposts for the Journey
Chapter 5 Spruce Up and Lighten Up
Chapter 6 Simple Practices

II. Play-and-Learn Destinations
Chapter 7 Play Pioneers
Chapter 8 Storyville
Chapter 9 The New Frontier

III. Mindful Planning and Creative Design
Chapter 10 First Steps to Success
Chapter 11 Fundamental Design Considerations
Chapter 12 Creating Playscape Champions
Chapter 13 Embrace Your Ideal
Chapter 14 A Whack on the Side of the Head
Chapter 15 Planning Secrets for Small, Midsize, and Large Play Environments
Chapter 16 Your Design Crew
Chapter 17 Toy Trouble
Chapter 18 Play Roundup


Appendix A Suggested Reading
Appendix B Sample Survey for Libraries Who Do Not Currently Offer Play-and-Learn Spaces
Appendix C Sample Survey for Libraries Who Currently Offer Play-and-Learn Spaces
Appendix D Sample Activity Plan
Appendix E Sample Logic Model
Appendix F Sample Evaluation Plan
Appendix G Sample Guidelines for Cleaning Play-and-Learn Spaces
Appendix H Storyville Survey Results
Appendix I Sample of Guiding Principles for Early Literacy Library Environments
Appendix J Sample Activity Sheet
Appendix K Companies and Resources
Appendix L Sample Play-and-Learn Guidelines

About the Authors

About the Authors

Dorothy Stoltz coordinates programming and outreach services at Carroll County (Maryland) Public Library. She spearheaded a successful early literacy training study for Carroll using home child-care providers and three- and four-year-olds. This research-tested study showed statistically significant increases in early literacy skills of children. With more than 30 years of experience in public libraries, she oversees early literacy training, peer coaching, programming, mobile services, community outreach, and grant projects, including “Parents as Teachers,” at her library. She is coauthor of Every Child Ready for School—Helping Adults Inspire Young Children to Learn (2013) and Tender Topics: Picture Books About Childhood Challenges (2013). In 2011 she became a member of the ALSC/PLA Every Child Ready to Read Oversight Committee and chairperson in 2014/15.

Marisa Conner, MEd, coordinates the programming and services for children and youth at Baltimore County (Maryland) Public Library. She created Early Learning Activity Centers in all nineteen branches at BCPL and designed the learning components for both Storyvilles, BCPL’s award winning early childhood learning environments. She brings twenty-seven years’ experience in education and over nine years’ experience in public libraries to her work. She has presented workshops and trainings on creating play spaces in libraries at state, regional, and national conferences, including Virginia, Montana, New York, Maryland, PLA, ALA, and to the 2011 national children’s conference in Denmark, BOEFA. She taught at Johns Hopkins University for over eight years. In 2014 she became a member of the ALSC/PLA Every Child Ready to Read Oversight Committee.

James Bradberry, AIA, LEED, is an award winning architect/author and principal of James Bradberry Architects, located in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania. He has taught architecture at Yale, Penn, and the Technical University of Nova Scotia, and his work has been published in the US and abroad. His firm has designed several noted interactive learning environments for children, including two Storyville projects for the Baltimore County Public Library, and the Cotsen Children’s Library at Princeton University. He is the author of four novels—The Seventh Sacrament (1994), Ruins of Civility (1996), Eakins’ Mistress (1997), and The 32nd of December (2014).

"A great resource no matter how big or small your learning space project ... read from cover to cover [or] as a step by step guide. I wish I had something like this when I was getting started!" 
ALSC blog

”A wealth of practical ideas and novel approaches … strongly recommended reading for anyone having responsibility for promoting a community library as a family-friendly resource."
— Midwest Book Review

”Packed with tips for toys, worksheets for design, and keys to making a play space part of a community, this is a pick any children's librarian will want to look at."
— California Bookwatch

”This is both a practical and inspirational book about ways to encourage young children to talk, sing, read, write, and play within a library environment."
— Catholic Library World

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