Early Literacy in Action with Teen Parents

By Dawn Borgardt, Beaverton City Library

Alex Bushue is the Director of Continuing Education for Young Parents (CEYP) at the Merlo Station High School in Beaverton. She and I have been working to demonstrate the benefits of early literacy to teen parents for the last several years with varied success. This year, using Ready to Read grant funds and the Every Child Ready to Read 2 curriculum, Alex and I revolutionized our approach and delivered an amazing new program drawing on the principles of active learning.

Alex devised a 6-week course devoted to early literacy that combined traditional academic learning with hands-on experience.  The class consisted of 12 teen parents who read scientific articles about br2015 CEYP storytime 1ain development and the importance of early literacy.  Prior to this class, the teen parents assisted with local Kindergarten classes to get a feel for what Kindergarten readiness actually looks like.  Finally, I visited once a week for 5 weeks to share tips and apply them during in-class storytime with the teen parents and kids.

Literacy book choices

Literacy book choices

Some of the key elements of the course include:

  • Every week each child got a new awesome, age-appropriate book to add to their home library.
  • Parents each had the chance to learn a song and lead the group in that song during storytime.
  • Each parent created a unique picture book for their child, inspired by examples we looked at as a class. (Published using Pintsized Productions)
  • Parents meticulously filled out daily reading logs detailing how they read, played, talked, sang, and wrote with their children on a daily basis.

What was so effective about this partnership was that we not only talked about early literacy, we practiced it. THIS IS THE AWESOME PART.  The students devoured the scientific articles about literacy and brain development, and that motivated them to apply what they learned during our weekly storytimes.  The babies and toddlers quickly picked up on the fun routine, which included putting felt apples on a tree to begin and ended with parents blowing bubbles with their babies (which naturally encouraged conversation and making up fun games – we even wrote a bubble rhyme as a group).  Each week after the teens took their kids back to daycare, Alex and I debriefed with the teens, talking about what went well and what was difficult, and how the activities aligned with what they were learning about early literacy and child development.

At the end of the 6-week course, teen parents were checking out eBooks on their own phones to read in their leisure time. Several teens have started visiting the library for programs and storytimes as well.   “It was truly remarkable to see them so excited about brain development.  The teens, who are often reluctant learners, were begging for more articles, more storytime with their kids, more books, and more read-alouds by Dawn.  This class was a real game changer for many of these teens, and as a result, their babies” notes Alex.

As one teen wrote in her evaluation “Because of you I feel like my child and I have 2015 CEYP storytime 2bonded more through reading.”  Another student echoed that sentiment saying, “I wish we could keep on doing in class storytime!”  By the end of the course, every student reported reading to their child at least 15 minutes each day. They were motivated by what they learned and practiced in class and had incorporated it into their lives and the lives of their children.  It doesn’t get much better than that.

Alex says that she plans to offer this course annually, and there is already buzz and excitement from students who didn’t get to take it this year – they want to know when it will be their turn for the library lady to come and do storytime and give them books for their babies.

Do you have a teen parenting program in your area?

Do you know the teacher/director/principal?

If you’d like more information about the CEYP/Beaverton City Library partnership, please contact

Dawn (dborgardt@beavertonoregon.gov) or

Alex (Alexandrea_Bushue@beaverton.k12.or.us), we would love to share resources and strategies!

Fresh Off the Press: 2015 Sprint OYAN Review!

Check out the Spring OYAN Review!

You will find program ideas on making stop-motion videos, starting a crafting club, and providing early literacy programs for teen parents. Plus insights to letting go of your teen council, meet the new OYEA Award winner Aimee Meuchel, an interview with author of Jackaby, William Ritter, and much more.

Download your copy today!