March 18, 2018

The Advocate's Toolbox

Keeping It Real: Inside the World of Early Learning | Editorial

Young children have been getting a lot of attention lately, as we discover more about the critical learning that occurs before kids enter school—and the gap that yawns later in life when such learning lags. We at SLJ believe that all kids need and deserve a strong start and so have dedicated this issue to early learning.

Public libraries have long been engaged in this important work. Supporting early learning has been a natural part of the mission of libraries ever since they started letting kids through the doors. Now, that effort is even more intentional, supported by specific strategies to help build preliteracy skills. Importantly, this work hones in on caregivers and parents, too. Adults, after all, crave information and insight into how they can do the best by their kids.

These pages are full of insight into the efforts many librarians and other educators are delivering. Take the adventurous, flexible, attuned attitude of “Embrace the Chaos,” by SLJ’s First Steps columnist Lisa G. Kropp. Kids need personal attention anchored in the real world, and it’s likely to get messy—that’s all part of the learning.

A favorite article is the curated list of some of the best new board books to hit the market by Luann Toth, SLJ’s managing editor, reviews. (“Get on Board!”). I might have titled this piece “Books Worth Eating”—in my limited, personal research into infant and toddler behavior and board books, one thing’s for sure: the best ones get gnawed on. Regardless, a good board book makes all the difference as adult and baby connect through even the simplest stories and the act of looking at them together, turning sturdy pages to reveal what comes next. Magic, pure magic, comes from the funny little objects we call books—even if they get a bit gooey.

Getting hooked on books in the early years is critical, and its impact on later literacy is well documented. The role of technology, however, is not as well understood. But kids want what adults have. Like so many parents, I struggle to make the right call when my young children want to play on a device, rather than explore a book or run around outside. I don’t want to do the wrong thing. Where should tech fit in? This was one of the core questions we wanted to illuminate, and Annie Murphy Paul provides an overview of current thinking in “Too Soon?”.

As you’ll see, it’s still early days in understanding how technology impacts our kids. One thing is sure, however: parents and caregivers need guidance on kids’ technology use, as well as selecting the best tools and content out there. Librarians and other educators are striving to cover all fronts.

SLJ is here to help. Early learning is among our focal points for ongoing coverage, and we are engaged in supporting leadership in the arena with initiatives, including Fostering Lifelong Learners: Investing in Our Children, a September 19 daylong event developed in partnership with Cuyahoga County Public Library and The Horn Book. In the meantime, keep telling us what you need, and what you’re doing in your work with young children, and together we will help all kids thrive.


Please note that as of July 21, the staff of School Library Journal will be settling into new offices in New York City’s financial district. Our emails, phone numbers, and fax numbers will remain the same. However, please plan to send materials for review and other mail to our new address: 123 William Street, Suite 802, New York, NY 10038.Rebecca_sig600x_WebEditorial

Rebecca T. Miller

This article was published in School Library Journal's July 2014 issue. Subscribe today and save up to 35% off the regular subscription rate.

Rebecca T. Miller About Rebecca T. Miller

Rebecca T. Miller ( is Editorial Director, Library Journal and School Library Journal.