“Read While You Wait” Promotes Community Literacy

Amy Martin, children’s librarian from the Oakland Public Library’s Eastmont Branch.  The chidlren are Areli, 5, and Eliel, 3, Frausto.

Amy Martin, children’s librarian from the Oakland Public Library’s Eastmont Branch. The chidlren are Areli, 5, and Eliel, 3, Frausto.

Amy Martin, children’s librarian from the Oakland Public Library’s Eastmont Branch.  The chidlren are Areli, 5, and Eliel, 3, Frausto.

Amy Martin, children’s librarian from the Oakland Public Library’s Eastmont Branch. The chidlren are Areli, 5, and Eliel, 3, Frausto.

An innovative partnership between the Alameda County Social Services Agency (SSA) and the Hayward and Oakland Public Libraries is transforming waiting room time at the Agency’s Self Sufficiency Centers into an opportunity to promote family literacy, enjoyment of reading, and awareness of public library services. Read While You Wait brings family story time programs delivered by children’s librarians to SSA’s waiting rooms. Beginning in April, librarians have visited SSA’s Self Sufficiency Centers at North Oakland, Hayward and Eastmont during the 2nd and 3rd weeks of the month to share lively 30-minute presentations of story-reading and songs to customers and their children. Participating children also choose a donated book to take home. So far about 360 books have been distributed. Thanks to an overwhelmingly positive response, a summer schedule has been added. The second component of Read While You Wait, currently being piloted at SSA’s North Oakland office, is a magazine distribution program for clients to enjoy while waiting to receive service. Social Services Community Ambassadors (volunteers) provide current editions of magazines ranging from People to Fortune to help pass the time. “Visit our waiting rooms on any given day and you are likely to encounter parents trying to keep small children engaged and entertained while they wait to conduct their SSA business. You will also see adults in need of some type of distraction to help them pass the time,” said Lori A. Cox, Agency Director. Librarians at the Eastmont Self Sufficiency Center report that 90 percent of the children who participated in the waiting room story time visited the Eastmont public library and signed up for a library card. The response from clients has been extremely positive. One client stopped a Community Ambassador passing out magazines and said, “I don’t want a magazine; I just wanted to tell you that whoever thought of this, it was a good idea and really nice.” SSA will continue to develop ways to promote community literacy at all its sites, said Sylvia Soublet, SSA’s Director of Public Affairs. “Our goal is to implement small changes over time that will change the experience and ultimately the perception that our customers have about coming to our offices,” she said.
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