Read Together Kits: Bringing Diverse Literature Home

A California State Library LSTA grant program intended to facilitate easy duplication of successful projects

Informational Webinar

Description: Read Together Kits are storytime kits for parents and early-learning providers containing picture books featuring diverse characters that are specifically selected for sharing with toddlers and preschoolers in a group or one-to-one setting. The kits are developed around ten themes identified with input from early childhood providers, and each kit includes five to seven picture books and an information sheet with early literacy tips and resources.

Purpose: Sacramento Public Library (SPL) created these kits to make it easier for parents and early learning providers to find and regularly share diverse books reflective of themselves and our diverse communities.

Target Audience: Parents and childcare providers who want to share materials and literacy tips that reflect the diversity of their community and that support common early learning themes.

Expected Outcomes: People who check out and use the kits will report increased access to diverse materials, increased use of these materials in their storytimes, and more satisfaction with the materials available to them. In the long-term, the children who experience the books, songs and rhymes in these storytime kits will have more access to books, higher print motivation and, ultimately, increased school readiness.

Partnerships: Childcare providers, early learning educators, parents, and organizations serving these groups provide input that determines the themes of the kits. They also help promote the availability of the kits in the community.

Budget Considerations

  • Staff time
  • Books
  • Bags
  • Marketing materials

See Read Together Kits (pdf) for more detail and in-kind staff estimates. This program is scalable to fewer branches than the original project; maximum funding amount, $19,500, allows for duplication of this program in up to 13 branches.

Implementation Steps:

  • Create and administer a survey of providers
    to determine needed themes for kits. Possible partners for getting feedback include First 5 agencies, Head Start, family resource centers, community agencies, and school district early learning departments. It is most efficient to reach individual providers and teachers by distributing a survey link via email through larger partner organizations. Sample provider survey (word document)
  • Develop criteria for book selection
    The books for the SPL kits were screened based on two sets of criteria. First, they must feature diverse human characters, as discussions with early childhood providers indicated it is difficult to find books that reflect the children they serve. Second, the books should be successful examples of toddler or preschool storytime books. At SPL, a committee of youth services librarians worked to identify titles, reviewing them for both criteria. The process of selection should be done by more than one person; allow sufficient time for open discussions of bias. If the selection committee is made of mostly white individuals, seek out a range of feedback on selections and be alert to where bias creates blind spots for selections. Additionally, the committee should be aware of dynamics and demands placed on persons of color participating in this work. Read Together Criteria (word document) See the Diversity section of this site for more resources.
  • Create a list of books and identify kit themes
    SPL used a draft list of themes to begin to identify books, but they prioritized identifying books that met the criteria first and then matched them to a larger list of themes. They determined that at least two books in each kit needed to be appropriate for a toddler audience, and a few kits included bilingual books. Read Together Kit Title List (word document)
  • Select and design bag for kit
    Check the dimensions of the bag against the largest size of the picture book you will be ordering and the depth needed to accommodate multiple books. SPL purchased additional bags for replacements. Consider where the bag will be displayed in the branch when looking at dimensions. View SPL’s Bag.
  • Purchase books
    Plan stock quantities and processing times accordingly with your book vendors. Clarify which items will incur a replacement cost, and identify the process for replacing lost items and how those items will be paid for. Hint: check that the quantity you will need are available from the vendor and make sure to allow sufficient time for all books to arrive.
  • Catalog materials, determine circulation rules, assemble kits
    For kits to be fully assembled and released for circulation, they should match the catalog record. When creating catalog records, make sure that patrons can browse the titles for each kit in the record. To achieve consistent circulation numbers, release all kits available for check at once. Determine whether you have the staff to process the kits in house or budget for additional vendor processing. If you are doing a large number of kits, anticipate the space and staff time it will take to process all of the books, assemble the kits, and distribute them to branches.
  • Create an information sheet with early learning tips and storytime support
    Each information sheet lists the titles available in the kit and identifies which are selected for toddlers and which work better for preschoolers. Three to four songs and rhymes are provided to enrich storytime, as are early learning tips. At least one song or rhyme is provided in Spanish. SPL Sample Info Sheets: Animals, Colors and shapes, Community, Counting, Feelings, Friendship, Nature, School, Sound and movement (pdfs)
  • Develop promotional materials
    SPL created a flier (pdf) for-in branch promotion of the kits as well as a bookmark (pdf) for getting the word out in the community. They also created a separate page on the website and will eventually provide the information sheets on the website, as this is a popular resource. SFP intentionally chose not place the primary focus of marketing on the diversity of the characters in the kits. Instead, they focused on promoting the new storytime kits with an added detail that they featured diverse characters. SPL Facebook post.
  • Evaluation
    Track circulation and review survey responses to continually evaluate the use of the kits. Surveys can be included in the kit, and/or you can provide a link on the information sheets. Sample survey (word document) When tracking circulation performance, consider building in contingencies for studying in-branch use (if they are made available on shelves) and for how renewals and teacher/group use might play into the numbers. Reevaluate the kits after a period of circulation to assess if there are better titles to include, customer comments you want to respond to, the effectiveness of the themes, or if there are more choices that are written by authors of color. The next phase of the project for Sacramento Public Library will be to create Spanish language Read Together kits.