Over the last 15 months or so my boss and I have done early literacy presentations at various training events for childcare workers. It is a bit out of my comfort zone as an introvert (I am perfectly fine in front of a bunch of kids, but a room full of adults is a different story), but something I've challenged myself to do and each time I get a little more comfortable with it.
However, yesterday I did my first solo presentation (though my boss was nice enough to come along for moral support), and this time the topic and audience were a little different. Our department had been asked if we had anyone who could present a session at a training event for workers from the public school system's after-school programs. They really didn't have anything specific in mind, so I told them I felt qualified to talk along the lines of encouraging reading, motivating reluctant readers, recommended materials, and some activities they could do that support literacy.
I spent some time just mulling over what I wanted to do, getting ideas and information together, and organizing my thoughts before creating my PowerPoint slides. I was actually looking forward to it because I was going to talk about something that I'm pretty passionate about, which is how important it is to let kids read books that they choose for themselves as much as possible, which includes materials parents and teachers often overlook if not outright discourage and not being so hung up on reading levels, but focusing more on interest levels (for independent & leisure reading at least).
Then I would proceed to tell them why their choice wasn't acceptable (too short, too many pictures, too frivolous, not a real book, too easy, etc.) and give them something else, deliberately choosing books that were longer, very dense text, no illustrations, and less relatable (Moby Dick, The Scarlet Letter, The Odyssey, Gone With The Wind, a long George Washington bio, a civil rights book with very dense text and no pictures, and a very academic botanical book).
I then explained that these were all things I had heard adults say to kids about their reading
choices and asked them to stop and think about how that would make a kid feel, that not only were they given something to read that they weren't interested in, couldn't relate to, or was too challenging, but that they were told their choices weren't good enough (I also explained that ALL the books used in the demonstration were in fact good books, in the right situation for the right person, but not every book is right for everybody). I went on to talk about how graphic novels are "real" books, audiobooks and magazines both count as reading, make some suggestions for reluctant readers, and talk about several fun activities they can do that support literacy and "sneak" reading in.
It went fairly well, but it was a little strange in that during the first session I only had 1 person
show up! But at least she was interested, and impressed with all the services the library offers that she didn't know about, and she took several extra handouts to share with co-workers. Then for the second session there were 20-25 people. I guess they didn't have as many attendees as expected to fill all the rooms, but I'm not sure why they didn't end up more evenly distributed instead of some rooms having just 1-5 and others being full.
The other weird thing was on the evaluations I got very positive comments from everyone except one person who complained that it was "all about books" 😲. Okay, the title of my presentation was "Making Reading Fun: Practical Tips for Promoting Literacy, Motivating Reluctant Readers, and Inspiring Lifelong Reading" and I'm from the library. What did they expect me to talk about?? 😆
So here is what I learned:
- I've got to get better at getting the audience involved & incorporate more interaction
- I still get slightly nervous and talk too fast
- I should have focused a little more on activities and less on talking about specific book recommendations since I also gave them a bibliography
- After it's over, all you can think about is everything you should have done differently
- You can't please everyone
- Presenting is exhausting, at least for us introverted types!
Thanks to everyone from the Storytime Underground Facebook group who gave me additional suggestions for literacy-related activities, titles that are more appealing to reluctant readers, and examples of skewed reading levels! I'll link to my slides and the limited bibliography I handed out on Google Drive, in case anyone is curious.
Constructive feedback is welcome! Especially tips for getting the audience more involved and not lapsing into "lecture mode". I find I tend to rush more in the second session because I'm starting to get tired and bored, but I still got some very positive feedback from several attendees who said they found it very helpful, so I guess I didn't suck! 😁