Each POP! Parents of Preschoolers program follows a common format. First, there is some low-key social time. The library provides coffee, tea, and cookies, and the program facilitator--who may be a library staffer or a paid expert presenter--encourages friendly chatter with a goal of parents building a support network with other parents via their shared use of the library. Social time is about 15-20 minutes of the 60-minute program, and so far, after two programs, parents are expressing that they really enjoy getting to talk with other parents who have kids the same age as they do.
The second part of the program is the parenting topic of the program. This is the bulk of the program, the part in which the facilitator shares information and expertise on the topic of the day. This isn't really a lecture--rather, it's a guided conversation, with hands-on examples highly encouraged. We want attending parents to build their confidence in applying what they know and learn to their parenting, and we're finding this model is a good one for what we aim to accomplish.
In putting together the initial slate of topics for the inaugural season of POP! Parents of Preschoolers, I looked at preschool parenting/development topics in which we have staff expertise and/or need expressed by parents who use the library. We've been offering one POP! program in each of our two-month calendar cycles, which means we've covered two topics so far, with two (maybe three) after the new year:
- October: Reading to Succeed (all about early literacy)
- November: Screen Time (all about media use)
- February: Boredom Busters (engaging activities to have on hand)
- March: name tbd (an expert is coming to speak on nutrition and food habits)
I'm also considering a fifth program based on an area of need expressed by parents who've attended so far: sleep and bedtime routines. I've got a local sleep specialist in mind to talk to in the next few weeks to see if/how we can make that topic work.
So that's POP! Parents of Preschoolers. To reiterate, we've got a few core goals for the program:
- Parents will build skills and confidence in their abilities as parents of young children.
- Parents will develop a social support network with other parents of young children.
- Parents will consider the library a place that supports their role as parents of young children.
I plan to write again in the next few weeks to cover some additional aspects of the program, including how we're trying to incentivize repeat attendance and a recap of the recent Screen Time program, which I facilitated. In the meantime, I'd love to hear what others are doing in the realm of caregiver engagement programs, and I'm also always happy to answer questions.