Yesterday we had the inaugural meeting of our Vancouver Library Services for Children Journal Club! If you missed my post about the LSC Journal Club, go read it now and find out all about this free professional development resource aimed at anyone serving children in libraries.
The articles we read and discussed were about executive function skills in early childhood development. Our discussion leader started by recapping the articles and giving us a clear definition of executive function. It can be broken down into the following three dimensions:
- Working Memory: The ability to hold and use information in our minds over a short period of time. For example, a child being able to follow three simple directions is using their working memory.
- Inhibitory Control: The skill we use to think before we act and resist temptations. A child would use this skill to refrain from hitting another child who has taken their toy.
- Cognitive/Mental Flexibility: The ability to switch gears or tasks and take on different perspectives. A child uses cognitive flexibility, for example, when trying different ways to get a science experiment to work.
Executive function skills support the learning process and develop over time with the preschool years being a prime developmental window. Stress in early childhood can affect the development of executive function, but interventions have been shown to help kids overcome this deficit.
We spent a large portion of our discussion talking about ways we can support the development of executive function at the library. As a place, we are one of the key environments kids spend time in as they grow. There are so many storytime examples in particular that we are already doing such as: having a mystery box or having kids practice taking turns or doing deep breathing and asking kids about their emotions. The list goes on! For even more examples, I encourage you to watch the webinar Using Storytime to Grow Executive Function and Self-Regulation in ECE.
We noted though that as a library we often only have kids in our programs for 30 minutes to an hour. It can be hard to build relationships with the kids or between kids in such a short time span. We felt that early childhood educators such as preschool and daycare teachers who see little ones all day long would benefit from learning about executive function too. We offer professional development programs for ECEs and brainstormed ways we could include this content in some of our workshops. Finding ways to make the language around executive function accessible to all is another point we stressed.
Here are some questions we continue to ask ourselves:
- How can we take the academic lingo in these research articles and translate it into layman terms that would be appropriate to use in storytime or other programs for adults?
- What are some ways to incorporate executive function scaffolds into school-age programs, especially for the kids who would otherwise be deemed a “problem'” or “lazy”? How can we make adjustments, not punishments?
- What types of play-based programs for the 0-5 crowd can be utilized to fill the gap for families who for whatever reason don’t come to storytime?
What I love about the LSC Journal Club is that even if I don’t come away with all the answers, I do come away with more knowledge of the why we do things and the confidence that it is rooted in research. I’d love to hear your thoughts about executive function! Let me know what you think in the comments.