The Multimodal Power of Storytime: Exploring an Information Environment for Young Children
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During the first five years of life children are undergoing significant amounts of learning and development that provides the foundation for later school and lifelong learning (Gopnik, Meltzoff, & Kuhl, 2001). Exposing young children to information-rich environments during this crucial time can help to support their learning (Dresang, 2013). Informal learning environments often endeavor to support learning for young children during this period, but a clear understanding of the learning opportunities provided by these environments has not yet emerged. Exploring the information aspects of the environments, or the “information environments,” in which young children exist can provide insight into the learning opportunities provided for children by these environments. Eisenberg and Small’s (1993) framework for information-based education was used to explore public library storytimes as an information environment for young children. The three dimensions of the framework were used to guide the exploration, which examined the nature of the information resources and the information content, the information processes occurring during storytime and the roles of the individuals attending storytime. This exploration included two phases. The first phase consisted of secondary data analysis where observations were done of video-recorded storytimes that were taken during a previous study. The second phase included a survey of storytime providers in Washington State. In addition, the SEALE tool--a coding tool based on the Head Start Early Learning Outcomes Framework (Office of Head Start, 2015), was used to reveal children’s behaviors exhibited during the observations of the video-recorded storytimes and to provide insight into the learning behaviors that occur for children while interacting in this information environment. The findings reveal that storytime providers are incorporating a wide variety of information content and information resources; and communicating the information to the children through multiple methods while also providing children with multiple ways through which they can interact with the information content and resources. In addition, each type of attendee is playing a variety of roles, all of which contribute to the enactment of the information environment in storytime. Finally, through the SEALE tool, the research revealed that children are exhibiting learning behaviors across a variety of domains for learning and child development. Building on these findings, a model is presented that portrays how storytime participants interact with each other and with information to support and contribute to the enactment of the information environment of storytime. Overall, this research demonstrates that storytimes are providing a rich information environment for young children that encourages and supports their learning in a variety of ways.
- Information science