Kelly Makepeace, speech pathologist and Childhood Literacy Officer at Central Northern Libraries in New South Wales, has been undertaking a project to improve accessibility for children’s books at her library. Labelling books at the library based on grammar, sentence structure and vocabulary, hoping to help young kids with language and literacy skills in her community. Story Box Library spoke with Kelly about her project, and how her project is supporting inclusion and equity for teachers, parents and children in her Tamworth community.

What is your role with Central Northern Libraries? 

I develop early language and literacy programs and resources for young families and educators across fifteen libraries and local early years services. I also help to coordinate the amazing, ‘Tamworth Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library’, a free monthly book giving program for all children aged 0-5 years living in Tamworth LGA. 

What led you to develop this project? 

Children living in some Tamworth communities are more than four times as likely to be developmentally vulnerable in language and communication domains before they begin school compared to the state average, (AEDC, 2018). Programs such as ‘Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library’ and the Speech Language Pathology Collection (“the Collection”) are a response to that community need.

The Collection is a resource for parents, educators and library staff to use at home, in the classroom or during Storytime. The books are wonderfully fun and engaging and model age-appropriate speech sounds, vocabulary, language forms and concepts such as action verbs, adjectives (descriptive words) and prepositions (position words). Each book contains a list of language and speech targets as well as activities to reinforce these milestones. QR codes link the books to the Central Northern Regional Library website and other digital resources.

With children now facing limits on visits to libraries and face-to-face learning, how have you found digital resources like Story Box Library can benefit vulnerable children or children living with disability?

We absolutely love recommending this resource to our families! Our parents have also become very comfortable participating in our online Baby Book Time and Storytimes. I believe our face-to-face programs and digital resources really complement each other.  

Has this project impacted how the library approaches other early learning programs? If so, in what ways?

Covid has required us to really think out of the box to ensure we are engaging with our community. For instance, we would like to value add to our technology collection by linking books to our Innovation Studio online STEM videos using QR codes. 

For parents who may be reluctant to visit libraries due to their child’s needs, what tips would you offer in seeking out and using digital literacy resources with their child?

Well, firstly I would encourage any parent with concerns to speak to your local children’s librarian – you may be surprised what they have in place to support every child’s needs! At Tamworth Library we use visual timetables and keyword sign to support receptive language during Storytime and have resources available for sensory needs. Your librarian will work with you to help your child feel safe and comfortable at the library. We also have amazing online resources such as Story Box Library.

Watch recommended titles from Kelly's Speech Language Pathology Collection:

For additional speech and language resources, explore Speech Pathology Australia Book of the Year Award Shortlisted titles on Story Box Library.