March 3, 2015

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About Renea Arnold and Nell Colburn

Renea Arnold is coordinator of early childhood resources for the Multnomah County Library in Portland, OR. Nell Colburn is one of MCL’s early childhood librarians.

The Pleasure Principle: Children (and grown-ups) tend to do what’s most fun | First Steps


First Steps began almost nine years ago, in February of 2004. Our first column was about the importance of having fun, because we believed that fun was a key element in any discussion of early literacy. We still do. Learning to read isn’t easy. It’s hard work, and children need to be motivated to put forth the effort. Like adults, they’re inclined to do what’s most enjoyable for them.

As 2013 approaches, Nell is celebrating 40 […]

Why Offer Black Storytime? | First Steps

African American woman and child reading a book

Imagine that while interviewing for a library job you’re asked, “What would storytime specifically for African-American families look like to you?” That’s what happened to Kirby McCurtis. “I thought it was an especially interesting and challenging question,” says Kirby, who aced the interview and is now Multnomah County Library’s (MCL) newest African-American librarian. “It stayed with me even after the second interview. Now that I am working here, I have the opportunity to answer it every Saturday. It’s very exciting!”

The Neglected Ones: Children of undocumented immigrants seldom receive the services they need | First Steps

These days the news is full of polarizing stories about undocumented immigrants. Rarely do we hear about the 4.5 million children born each year in the United States to undocumented immigrant parents.

Mind Readers: Thinking Out Loud Can Raise Children’s Comprehension Skills | First Steps

It’s toddler storytime: let the rumpus begin! Toddlers bound quickly into the room. One hurdles mom’s legs while waiting for the opening song. Some hop, others roam, and a few practically climb our unflappable colleague Janie. Even after getting most of their wiggles out, many toddlers continue to float around the room—until Janie begins to read one of her favorite books, Owl Babies (Candlewick, 1996) by Martin Waddell.

Give Them a Big Hand: Puppets are great motivators for children who are learning to read

One of the most surprising early literacy questions we’ve encountered is about puppets. It came from a youth librarian whose director insisted that he couldn’t see how using puppets “has any value whatsoever, as far as early literacy is concerned.” “What can I tell him?” she asked us.

Oh, my. Where to start?

Print motivation, most likely. What motivates children more than having fun? Puppets are nothing if not fun. A puppet sharing a story enchants a preschool […]

A Running Start: We’re excited about the latest programs for very young learners | First Steps

It’s good to begin the New Year with enthusiasm. Here at Multnomah County Library we’re excited about several things. First, and perhaps most importantly, we’re looking forward to being successful at the ballot box in May, when primary voters will be asked to renew the bulk of our funding. Fortunately, the library is well-regarded in the Portland, OR, community, and we’re likely to secure the support we need.

We’re also excited about rolling out the new “Every Child […]