Get Quacking: A Rubber Ducky Club Encourages 1,000 Early Learning Moments

The program at Bethlehem Public Library in Delmar, NY, is designed to feel less daunting than 1,000 books before kindergarten early literacy programs.

BPL director Geoffrey Kirkpatrick with Kim Taylor-DiLeva
Courtesy of the Bethlehem Public Library

Things are just ducky in the town of Delmar, NY. That’s because the Bethlehem Public Library’s (BPL) children’s department launched the Rubber Ducky Club, encouraging parents and caregivers to share 1,000 learning moments with kids before kindergarten.

Created by public services librarian Kim Taylor-DiLeva, the program is designed to feel less daunting than libraries’ more traditional 1,000 books before kindergarten early literacy programs. “Reading 1,000 books sounds a lot more intimidating,” Taylor-DiLeva says. “I wanted adults to say, ‘I think we could reach that.’ ”

The Rubber Ducky Club focuses on the five Every Child Ready to Read (ECRR) practices: reading, talking, writing, playing, and singing together. The goal is to do about 200 learning activities in each of the five areas. Chatting with one’s baby while grocery shopping counts toward the goal of 1,000 learning moments, as does singing “The Itsy Bitsy Spider” in the car or playing I Spy.

By focusing on the multitude of ways young children learn through the simple acts of talking together, playing together, sharing books together, and more, the library models early learning in relation to school readiness and lifelong learning.

Tailored to newborns through kids entering kindergarten, the club uses online tracking of a tot’s learning moments by creating an account via Beanstack. That ties into the library catalog, providing book suggestions to patrons who opt in for weekly emails. Library staff add curated lists of suggested titles to the site, giving patrons age-appropriate books to check out—potentially boosting circulation of physical materials, too.

When the club launched in May, more than 96 patrons signed up and recorded 300 learning activities. A woman who signed up her four-year-old grandson recently came in for a recommended book she had put on hold. She probably wouldn’t have found it otherwise, she says.

Taylor-DiLeva also linked the early literacy DaybyDayNY website to the club site. This interactive calendar suggests a different ebook, song, short video, or activity to share each day and is part of the larger Ready to Read at NY Libraries early learning campaign. Parents click on the “monthly activities” button to get a look at the books shared, plus suggestions for activities such as arts and crafts, museums to visit, and more.

Patrons are encouraged to log in anytime they do an activity and record the learning moment in a description box where they can log the book read, song sung, Tupperware stacked, and more.

The Rubber Ducky Club kickoff party

A kickoff party featured rubber ducky–themed stations. A specially designed Ducky Pond bulletin board displays yellow dots with a child’s name for every prize level. At a selfie station, patrons hold a sign stating how many learning activities they’ve accomplished to date.

Advertising has been created in-house with programs, posters, and flyers. Taylor-DiLeva wants to begin handing out flyers at local pediatricians offices to patients during well visits.

The Friends of the Bethlehem Library sponsored incentive prizes. Children get a registration gift of a sticker or magnet and a membership card—and additional prizes at the 250 (a rubber ducky!), 500 (a beach ball), and 750 (snack cups with the Rubber Ducky logo) marks. At 1,000, they receive a certificate, a book of their choice, and a string backpack with the logo. For more information, contact Taylor-DiLeva (kim@bethpl.org). Then get quacking!

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