LSC Journal Club Reflections: Literacy is Not a Luxury & Play is not a Privilege

I’m FINALLY getting around to sharing my thoughts from the Denver Metro area’s first Library Services for Children Journal Club (LSC).

play is not a privilege

What is LSC?  The Library Services for Children Journal Club is a free professional development group that was launched this year by Lindsey (of Jbrary fame) and her coworker, Christie, for children’s library staff to get together and discuss the latest and greatest research related to our work!  Every two months, Christie and Lindsey select articles for review.  Interested parties are encouraged to participate online or arrange in-person gatherings.  To learn more, please check out

What a fun night!  Julie (from Tales for the Tiny) started us off with an icebreaker in which we discussed which executive function skills we felt we were most lacking ourselves.  Then we discussed our main takeaways from our readings on executive function (EF) and, my favorite part, what we in the library can do about it!

Here’s a link to the research we reviewed:

Here’s a few of my main takeaways and thoughts:

  • Children aren’t born with EF skills.  They don’t develop naturally.  If we don’t help them build EF skills, it isn’t going to happen.
  • Play is the perfect time for children to develop and grow their executive function skills!  When children play, they create and follow rules.  They plan ahead, they problem-solve, they take turns, use their background knowledge to inform their game… play is absolutely essential to children’s development!
  • The impact of toxic stress on EF and early childhood development cannot be understated…
  • and neither can the influence of just one caring, supportive adult in a child’s life!
  • Stop and go games and songs are great for supporting the development of self-control!  Suggestions include:
  • Preview activities beforehand, don’t just jump right in.  Kids need to know what to expect!
  • Three year olds can handle about 2 directions at a time!
  • Help kids build working memory- ask them questions such as, can you remember who was on the cover?

Some further questions and things I’d like to explore more:

  • How do we reach parents and families on the “outside?” Especially as they are most likely to be experiencing toxic stress?  What organizations in our communities can we partner with to reach those families?
  • How can we support the development of hot AND cold EF skills?
  • How can we better support children’s play in storytimes and our library spaces?  What is good verbiage to use when talking to our families about the importance of play?  What is good verbiage to use when patrons complain about children playing in the library?
    • I should note that I am incredibly fortunate to work for a wonderful library district that supports and prioritizes the role of play in our children’s spaces and programming.  We set aside at least 15 minutes for play at the end of every storytime and several of our locations are Family Place Libraries, which I encourage everyone to check out!
    • This has not always been the case.  I have unfortunately worked for places, mostly schools, where administrators and coworkers were not on board with the power of play.  I even once had a principal try to make us take dramatic play out of our day!  😦
  • How can we advocate for play to stakeholders and policy makers? (not just in the library)
  • Are there any pieces from the preschool curriculum, Tools of the Mind, that we can adapt for use in early literacy programming at the library?
  • What does supporting the development of executive function skills look like during baby’s first year and prenatal time?

And here’s some additional resources about executive function:

CLEL 2017 Keynote Address: Dr. Sarah Enos Watamura, Associate Professor, Denver CO
& The Effects of Toxic Stress on Children (presentation)

Using Story-time to Grow Executive Function and Self-Regulation in ECE: Setting the Stage for Success, by Mary Kuehner and Laurie Anne Armstrong (archived webinar)

Enhancing and Practicing Executive Function Skills with Children from Infancy to Adolescence from Harvard University’s Center on the Developing Child

My favorite thought from the experience comes from my friend Emily, which we quickly added to the Storytime Underground motto:

Literacy is not a luxury…

and play is not a privilege!

Thank you to everyone for a wonderful, thought-provoking evening!


Interested in joining us next time or finding a group nearby?  Click here.

See you soon in January!  Next time we’ll be talking all about evaluating educational apps.

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