Supercharged Storytimes Project Concludes, Learning Continues

WebJunction /

Over the past four and a half years, WebJunction’s Supercharged Storytimes for All project has reached more than 4,300 library staff, instilling the skills and confidence to be intentional in incorporating strategies into storytime to make a positive impact on the development of early literacy skills in young children. This amazing and impactful project was made possible through funding from OCLC and the Institute of Museum and Library Services. Supercharged Storytimes, launched as a pilot in 2014 and continued with a follow-on grant that wrapped up in April 2019. While the project has concluded, a powerful set of free resources is now available for library staff to learn from and build on.  

The Supercharged Storytimes for All project expanded the successful pilot training for library storytime practitioners, which focused on learning skills to boost early literacy development in young children. WebJunction collaborated with subject matter experts including Saroj Ghoting, a nationally recognized early childhood literacy consultant and instructor, CiKeithia Pugh, Early Learning Program Manager at The Seattle Public Library, Emily Plagman, Project Manager at Project Outcome, PLA, and Mari Nowitz, Youth Services Librarian at Timberland Regional Library. Additionally, project partner The Campaign for Grade-Level Reading provided supporting program resources on effective community outreach to children and families from diverse backgrounds.

WebJunction used three channels to disseminate the Supercharged Storytimes training program to a broad audience of practitioners: train the trainer, facilitator training, and the self-paced course.

Train the Trainer

In the train the trainer approach, WebJunction partnered with six state library agencies and one regional network. These training partners selected a total of 24 trainers to complete training on the content and then deliver online or blended training to library staff in their state or region. Most trainers had not delivered online training before and found the transition to be a steep learning curve. In the end, trainers were satisfied with their trainings and were proud of adding a new skill to their repertoire. One of the participating trainers shared, “I feel like I've really grown in my professional capacity. I've challenged myself in new ways that I really didn't expect. I feel much more confident in my storytime role and in my ability to convey the importance of a strong early childhood literacy foundation. I feel like I developed a new passion to invest my time, creativity, and energy into helping achieve a cause (helping others develop their supercharged storytimes.” Trainers taught storytime practitioners from their states or regions, enrolling a total of 739 learners.

Facilitator Training

For the facilitator training, 97 library staff participated in live, online training to learn how to facilitate learning groups, guiding their peers collaboratively through the Supercharged Storytimes self-paced course. The facilitator option met a diversity of learning needs, from a librarian in a small system who is passionate about Supercharged Storytimes and who takes advantage of professional development opportunities, to a state library continuing education coordinator who saw this as a way to disseminate training widely, effectively, and with little cost. One participant commented, “As a consultant with $0 budget--this was a great way to involve librarians all over the state in some best practices and it only cost me my time.” Additionally, for some facilitators, the experience of guiding learning groups led to even more opportunities at the local level, as we learned that one facilitator was awarded a $15,000 Intentional Family Engagement Initiative grant to start early learning groups in two regions in her state.

Participants in the learning groups expressed their appreciation of the added value of learning together around a self-paced course. “It has built a strong community of peers.” Another learner said, “It was good to have other coworkers going through the training at the same time. Discussing how we might implement ideas at our location was very useful and inspirational.”

Supercharged Storytimes Self-paced Course

The Supercharged Storytimes self-paced course offers free access for anyone to learn on their own schedule, while engaging in lively online discussions with storytime practitioners from around the world. Over 2,000 practitioners, representing 49 states and 19 countries, have enrolled in the course. These learners have expressed appreciation for the ability to take the course at their own speed and start and stop as needed. The online forums have robust conversations, with peer to peer sharing on all topics explored in the course.

Participants in all three of the channels reported notable gains in confidence and understanding of the Supercharged Storytimes material, and when surveyed 2-3 months after completing their training, they reported promising application of their Supercharged learning. Practitioners shared some fantastic testimonials:

“I feel much more confident in knowing my role as more of an educator than just an entertainer. I have the benchmarks to advocate for myself, my library, and the positive role of storytime in early education.”
“It has given story times much more purpose and drive. It’s also something I talk to patrons about (in and outside of story times). Having science supported skills has really made me become much more of an advocate for early literacy and made me feel more confident in my techniques, especially since I have no background in early literacy or library sciences.”
“Due in part to Supercharged Storytimes' focus on equity and inclusion, I have finally seen new programs getting the greenlight! Our administrators are beginning to see the importance of Spanish-language and bilingual storytimes, sensory-friendly spaces and activities, diverse books, and reaching out to underserved communities.” 
“The course taught me so much! One thing I learned that I really like was how to incorporate Project Outcome surveys: not only does it give me feedback that helps me grow, but it provides me with statistics and personal narratives that help me advocate for my department.”

This program resonated with a wide range of practitioners, both new and experienced, working in small and large libraries, in states and regions across the country and even globally. The self-paced and facilitated channels were also notable for their cost-effectiveness in scaling learning. The learning opportunities continue to be available through the free, self-paced Supercharged Storytimes course, through the Facilitator Guide which aids anyone interested in facilitating a group of peers through the self-paced course, and through the Toolkit for Trainers for library trainers who wants to host and deliver a Supercharged Storytimes training. We invite you to explore these resources and get ready to supercharge your storytimes!

This project was made possible in part by the Institute of Museum and Library Services [grant number RE-95-17-0085-17].