Books Can…© is a parent-child interactive public library program for caregivers and their preschool-age children. It is aligned with state guidelines and early learning standards for socio-emotional development. Trained library staff deliver six weekly, 45-minute enhanced storytime sessions that include songs/rhymes, books, hands-on activities, and explicit teaching of positive parenting practices.
Method: We conducted a randomized control trial to examine the effect of Books Can…© on parents’ socio-emotionally supportive interactions with their preschool-aged children. Drawing from a majority Hispanic/Latino sample (61%; 51% Spanish speaking), 72% of parents reported a household income of less than $2500/month, and 40% reported that their highest level of education was a high school degree or less. Parents and children were video-taped during a free-play interaction at pre-test (N=107) and post-test (N=70). Trained and reliable observers coded videos for positive parenting behaviors: teaching language, emotion coaching, and praise.
Results: The difference between pre- and post-test for treatment and control families was tested using SPSS mixed, controlling for parent education. Full information maximum likelihood was used to handle missing data. A significant Treatment by Time effect indicated that parents in the intervention group demonstrated significantly more emotion coaching behaviors at post-test (F(103)=8.18, p=.005), compared to control group families. There was no significant treatment effect on teaching language or praise.
Conclusions: This study highlights the importance of including community-based settings in children’s learning ecosystems, and the untapped potential of public libraries to provide high quality early learning experiences for families with young children. By incorporating aspects of parent education into storytime programming, community-based settings can support family engagement and positive parenting practices that promote school readiness.