Quick Tips to Prepare Your Library for PreK

Prepare Your Library for PreK Students

Let’s be honest. PreK students are a unique group of kids. With particular needs. Just the thought of having twenty (or more) 2, 3, and 4 year olds in the library can be intimidating. Even for a seasoned educator.

In all honesty, it was a huge hurdle for me when I first became a Library Media Specialist. I spent over a dozen years teaching students in 2nd through 5th grade. Primary students were definitely not my jam.

But within a few months, they quickly became my favorite and easiest grade to teach. I learned that there are 5 things that I need to do every year to prepare the library for PreK students.

Should PreK Visit the Library?

There are some pretty definitive opinions on whether or not PreK students should even visit the school library.

Some say NO. They believe that PreK students are too young for the library. They are too young for a lesson. They are too young to sit still. Some just don’t know what to do with PreK students when they visit the library.

Some say that if PreK has to visit the library, then only if a paraprofessional comes with them, they don’t check out books, or they are not in the library for longer than 20 – 30 minutes.

I say YES! PreK students should visit the library, and be afforded the same amount of time as other grades. During that time, PreK students can learn:

  • What a library is. For many students, this is their first exposure to a library. When they visit the school library, they learn what a library does. They also learn how to function or behave in a library.
  • Listening Skills. Libraries are the perfect place for students to listen to books. Listening to a read aloud requires students to quietly sit still for a period of time. This goes against their toddler nature!
  • Love of literature. Toddlers should be read to at least once a day. Coming to the library can guarantee that experience for children. And they can gain experience in searching for, choosing, and enjoying books on their own. In other words, they learn to be library patrons at a young age.
  • Media skills. Our youngest students are already using technology. Heck, the research shows that children under 8 spend 2-4 hours a day on a device. When in a library, with a certified Librarian or Media Specialist, early learners acquire more focused technology skills.
  • Coding and Computer Science. Certified educators such as Librarians and Media Specialists are in a unique position to provide early learners with coding opportunities. Coding is the language of the 21st century. And PreK students are at a prime age to start learning!

Engaging PreK Lessons

Prepare Your Library for PreK Students

Now that we know why PreK should come to the library, let’s dig into how to prepare for their arrival.

When I took on the library, it didn’t register that I’d be teaching PreK. I was scrambling every week. And I was utterly exhausted immediately after they left.

I was running around the library, frequently wrangling up kids, and quickly running out of ideas to keep them busy.

It didn’t take me long to realize that things had to change. The library had to become a more inviting space for these early learners. Once I did these 5 things, the library became a much more exciting, inviting, and engaging space for my PreK students.

✔️ An important place to start is with the developmental characteristics of a PreK child. In short, PreK kiddos need to move & play, they need clear & simple directions, and hands-on learning.Take care of those needs, and your time with them will be less hectic.

✔️ To meet those needs, make library class active and interactive, and balance that with moments of calm and independence. For example, if you have kids up & moving with a high energy song then follow it up with a read aloud.

✔️ Another way to prepare for your youngest patrons is to have developmentally appropriate materials on hand. Early learners have specific gross and fine motor skills. Be sure to have materials that will help them develop those skills. Such as crayons, blocks and other building materials, board books, and developmentally friendly apps.

Some of the best apps & sites for PreK include Tozzle, 3DBear, Quiver, PBS Kids, Narrator AR, Osmo, Toontastic, Code Monkey Jr, and Pic Collage EDU. Each provides them with age appropriate content and tools while teaching them specific literacy skills.

✔️ One way to not feel frazzled at the end of a PreK class is to use stations. Having stations open, gives young learners the opportunity to move between activities, make academic choices, and dig into content.

If you’re reading aloud a book, have 3 stations related to that book, and have the kids rotate through the stations. Perhaps one station is an app, another has them build, and another has them color.

You can have more stations and have students choose stations to go to and then switch, too! I just don’t recommend more than 5.

✔️ To pull all of this together, have a predictable structure. I like to have the kids do a song, we’ll do a read aloud, I’ll teach a skill, then send them off to stations, and then wrap it all up with a reflection or song.

The more routines we have in our school library, the more our students know what to expect. And that creates a sense of calm. Which helps students focus on the lesson on hand.

I explain this structure in more detail in the PreK & K in the Library Webinar. You can also see it in the lessons that I include in most of my PreK activities.

Once you have all of that down, I’ve got one last PreK Teaching Tip for ya.

Have everything set up & ready before they arrive. This makes your life so much easier.

I typically pull together all of the materials that I’ll need for the class. Just before they arrive, I put the read aloud & lesson materials close by where I’ll be teaching and put out the stations out.

If and when possible, get older students to help you set up. They love being able to do that!

Just remember that adjusting to the ages and stages of PreK students takes a minute. But these tips will help make that transition much smoother.