Headstart To Learning

How do people fall in love with books? Is it a natural, inherent trait? Or something that needs to be nurtured carefully? At Headstart To Learning, which is the Community Library Project's programme for four to six-year-olds, we try to answer this question every Saturday morning.

Headstart To Learning aims to nurture young library members to be comfortable with books and library spaces. It aims to teach children that books aren't always there to be memorized and retained and regurgitated in examinations. Books aren't scary, they aren't the soul-sucking monsters many traditional classrooms make them out to be. Headstart to Learning tries to make children understand that books can be fun, they can be the happiest of escapes, the most soothing of songs. If reading is hard, one can just look at the pages, the pictures -- giving free reign to imagination. There's no "right" way to interpret stories, no "wrong" answers to literature.

Our 90-minute programme every week consists of Read Alouds, games, puzzles, drawings, and performance sessions. We are polite, considerate, loving to each member. We try to think about stories, about pictures, about the happenings in this world. We take care of books, we take care of our shared library space. And look forward to a generation of confident, happy library members.


All students should be familiar with the following expectations and goals in Headstart To Learning:

  • We think as we read and listen to stories. Thinking make us smarter.
  • We think as we play. Play makes us smarter.
  • We care for each other. We use kind words.
  • We share and take turns.
  • We take care of our toys and games. We clean up.
  • These ideas can be reinforced with posters and clear teaching.

What we do at Headstart To Learning?

This is the brief programme outline

10:05-10:15 : Introduction/Friendship Time + Opening Song
10:15-10:35 : Individual performance/poem
10:35-10:45 : Story
10:45-10:55 : Juice + Learning a song
10:55-11:00 : Choice of Play (Drawing/ Puzzles/ Toys)
11:00-11:25: Circulation + Play Rotation, if required (pull students for library from groups that are not their favorite)
11:25-11:30: Clean up + closing song + Parting goodbye with biscuits

How do we do it?

We think as we read and listen to stories. Thinking make us smarter.

In Headstart To Learning, we think as we read and listen to stories.

  • What will happen next?
  • Why did she do that?
  • That reminds me…

To reinforce these, teachers do interactive read alouds. From time to time, it’s important for us to explicitly say, ‘Good readers think as we read… good readers ask questions/wonder as we read… good readers connect as we read… good readers predict as we read… Focus should be on questioning, predicting, and connecting.

We think as we play. Play makes us smarter.

In Headstart To Learning, we think as we play

  • How can I solve this puzzle?
  • How can I use my imagination?
  • What game should I play next?
  • What might work better next time.

To reinforce these, teachers can circulate and ask students questions such as:

  • Do you have a strategy for this game or puzzle?
  • Do you notice any patterns?
  • How are you using your imagination?
  • Why did you decide to do that?

We care for each other. We use kind words.

In Headstart To Learning, these things we reinforce

  • May I please play this game when you are finished?
  • Would you like to play with me?
  • Yes, thank you. No, thank you.
  • Thank you for playing with me.
  • That was fun!

We share and take turns.

In Headstart To Learning, we set these expectations

  • We share with each other.
  • We take turns.
  • We play with other children.

We care for our toys and games.

Again, these expectations are set

  • We help clean up after ourselves.
  • We treat games and toys gently so others can use them again and again.

What do we not do?

Things we don't say in the game room

  • That was stupid!
  • Ha, ha! I won!
  • Ha, ha! You lose!

To reinforce these behaviours, teachers can model kind and unkind (and polite and impolite) words. Teachers can ask students to decide if this is the kind of language we should use in the Head Start. Teachers should explicitly teach and model how to clean up and put away games properly. Students should be taught to keep puzzles and games separately so pieces do not get mixed up.

Students who do not follow expectations should be given a 2-3 minute time out from play. Before returning, they should be asked, ‘What was the problem with your behaviour?’ and ‘What can you do differently next time?’ ’ and/or ‘What can you do to fix the problem now?’ This might involve saying sorry to a classmate or cleaning up a mess or fixing a damaged game with tape.

Routine and Rotation Ideas

Now that most students know what the stations are, there are many ways to rotate/structure things.

Option to choose ( what we do currently)
Most children will get their first choice. Choice is good. Takes some time to teach routine and a little extra time implement. Can be used with two or three station rotation.

Random assignment (which we did previously)
Random assignment with one popsicle stick for each of two or three stations. This is faster but does not give choice. If done in two or three station rotation, most children get one thing they like, but may miss out on their absolute favourite.

The Community Library Project
Dharam Bhavan, C-13 Housing Society
South Extension Part -1
New Delhi - 110049
Donations to The Community Library Project are exempt from tax under section 80G of the Income Tax Act. Tax exemption is only valid in India.
Illustrations provided by Priya Kuriyan.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License
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