Early Learning with Families

Libraries are one of the essential community pillars that support and nurture early childhood development. The Early Learning with Families (ELF) initiative helps libraries support the educational and social-emotional needs of young children, their families, and caregivers in their communities.

The first five years of life are critical in the formative development of children and families. The following resources are designed to help libraries provide high quality, engaging, family-focused, and developmentally appropriate early learning services that support family strengths and nurture young children’s bodies, minds, and spirits.

Resources for Libraries

Stay & Play Toolkit

This toolkit highlights the best practices and lessons learned from five public libraries in California that piloted Stay & Play, a library service model specifically designed to serve and support the needs of informal child care providers, often referred to as Family, Friend, and Neighbor or FFNs. Funded by the David and Lucille Packard Foundation and LSTA

Reimagining School Readiness Toolkit

Children’s natural learning techniques (like pretend play, games, and conversing with others) have been scientifically shown to be better suited to meet the challenges of the information age than the teaching methods of the past two centuries. This downloadable and printable toolkit of research-backed resources was created for library staff to help families prepare children 0–8 for success in school and life. LSTA-funded

Together, Learning More! Interactive Family Learning in California’s Libraries

California public libraries are designing and delivering high quality, interactive learning opportunities to engage young children and their families across the state. This report highlights a few of the many examples of high-quality interactive learning happening in California libraries and shares research on cognitive and social-emotional development related to the effort. State funded

Resources for Promoting Childhood Creativity through Libraries

This resource packet from the Center for Childhood Creativity (CCC) is designed for library educators interested in promoting creative thinking and creativity skills in children. It includes a summary of the best research-backed approaches to promoting creativity in children; a curated collection of favorite creativity-related activities selected by library educators; and links to additional resources for those inspired to do more. LSTA-funded

Greeting Children’s Creativity: Maker Spaces for Children

Presentation for libraries by Bridget Alexander, the founder of ArtBeast Children’s Studio in Sacramento. ArtBeast is a drop-in studio centered on offering arts exploration spaces for children under 8. The slides include a discussion of the importance of play, art experiences that promote creative thinking, sample library programs, and sources for supplies. See also Resources for Inspiring Process Based Art and Creating Art Stations.

ELF Assessment Tool

A two-page assessment scale designed to assist library staff in planning and tracking the implementation, development and evolution of library services for young children (0–5), their families and caregivers. By using this scale, staff can determine where their early learning services are — on a continuum from initial implementation through full implementation.

ELF Photo Database

A free resource for California libraries containing high quality photographs taken by professionals. These photos are free for you to use as you promote and highlight your early learning services with flyers, websites, social media, and presentations. Photos help bring your library story to life!

  • Browse all photos or select topic area (in orange) or location (in blue) at the top of the page.
  • To see a larger preview of an image, click on it. Click the “close” button at the bottom of the photo to return to previewing pictures or to use the download function.
  • To download a photo to your own computer, click the “download” button. You may need to click and drag the downloaded image in your browser to your desktop, depending upon how your browser and operating system handles downloads. All downloaded photos have a print resolution of 6×9 jpegs.
  • To search for specific topics, locations, or filenames, click the “Search” button on any page and type your search term slowly in the white input box — the results will begin to appear immediately as you type. The search is not case sensitive; however, do not use the backspace key in the Search box, rather click “Refresh Page” to perform additional searches.
  • When feasible, please credit the photos: Terry Lorant Photography, CA State Library LSTA grant

Impact Reports for Early Learning with Families (ELF)

Early Learning with Families (ELF) was a California State Library initiative to support the continued evolution of quality library services to young children (0–5), their families and caregivers. Decades of research has demonstrated that the first five years of life are the most important phase in the human lifespan for overall development. These early years lay the foundation for health, education, and economic participation for the rest of life. Libraries can be key contributors to improving early learning outcomes, increasing school readiness, and ensuring that all children are reading and succeeding by grade three and beyond. LSTA-funded

The following impact reports from 2018 showcase ELF libraries across the state serving their unique and diverse communities. The reports include feedback from community members who participated in programming discussing the impact on their lives and the lives of their children.

Photos by Terry Lorant Photography, CA State Library LSTA grant