Activity: Observe and document a program delivered for children or young adults at a local library, reflect on the experience.
Woollahra Library presents a weekly Storytime program for pre-school children (3-5 yrs.) which aims to promote reading readiness through language, rhythm and rhyme. I have attended and assisted with this program a number of times in the course of my work duties and have observed a themed approach which runs through the course of the half hour program which begins with a story read with the use of props or toys, followed by a related song and culminating in a simple craft activity. The themes have been seen to range from occupations, transportation, book characters, food and nutrition and animals. Multicultural themes are explored annually on Harmony day and indigenous themes are the focus during Naidoc week.
Whilst the topics and structure of the program can be seen to be age appropriate, in my observation there is a shortfall in the frequency and scope of culturally diverse themes. One explanation for this could be that demographically speaking the areas serviced by the library are not highly represented by those from CALD backgrounds. However, in Overton’s (2016. P.13) view, children should be allowed to develop a sense of familiarity with diversity, regardless of their background, through stories and images that reflect and celebrate individual differences in regards to race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, physical abilities and religion. Importantly too, Overton suggests that featuring diversity only at certain times of the year may encourage the notion of’ “the other”, which can be seen to be in direct opposition to the promotion of diversity. In Naidoo’s (2014 p.5) view the library is an ideal environment to introduce positive representations of diversity to children which may help them develop favourable attitudes to those perceived as “the other”. Furthermore, Hunter (2015. P.34) explains that by exposing our children to other lives and other stories a commonality may be found, which in turn may engender empathy, and, in his view this may also be an effective way to eradicate racism.
On reflection I have been able to understand the importance of promoting diversity within the community. I see that the Library’s Storytime program is an opportunity to allow children to develop a sense of familiarity with diversity through exposing them to stories and cultures different to their own with the view of creating respect for each other’s differences.
This new understanding can be seen to be relevant to my professional practice as a CYA librarian as I will be sure to include books and stories representing an array of cultures, to move beyond representing our own community, and to do so on a regular basis.
My previous understanding was that the library seemingly supported diversity through the inclusion of annual multicultural programming, this could be seen to reflect a gap in my knowledge. I now understand that multicultural themes should be a regular inclusion in programs and need not be based entirely upon demographic information about the cultures of the community of which we serve, to do so could be seen to truly cater to diversity.
Hunter, S. (2015). Promoting Diversity at Your Library. The Booklist, 111(11), 43. Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/1651243234?accountid=10344
Naidoo, C. (2014). The importance of diversity in library programs and material collections forchildren. Retrieved from http://www.ala.org/alsc/sites/ala.org.alsc/files/content/ALSCwhitepaper_importance%20of%20diversity_with%20graphics_FINAL.pdf
Overton, N. (2016, Jan/Feb) Libraries Need Diverse Books. Public Libraries, 55, 13-14. Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/1773243107?accountid=10344