SILS Professor Mary Grace Flaherty and MSLS Student Faith Burns Receive Grant to Develop "Read & Reach" Program

April 27, 2015

UNC-Chapel Hill School of Information and Library Science (SILS) Assistant Professor Mary Grace Flaherty and Master of Library Science (MSLS) student Faith Burns have received a $5,000 Carnegie-Whitney Grant from the American Library Association to develop “Read & Reach: A Resource for Promoting Physical Activity in Storytime Programs.”

The project will provide children’s librarians across the United States with a comprehensive list of children’s books that encourage physical activity. The online resource will include detailed descriptions of the books and information to assist librarians in developing programs that involve the books for toddler and preschool storytimes. By incorporating books about physical activity, librarians can expose children to healthy habits at an early age, which can help reduce the risk of childhood obesity and related health conditions.

“Read & Reach”complements Flaherty’s other research endeavors exploring how public libraries can play a role in improving community health. In 2013, Flaherty received a Kilgour Research Grant to study health information resource use in North Carolina libraries, and in 2014 she earned a UNC Junior Faculty Development Award to facilitate a project that will make the Carolina Health Assessment Research Tool (CHART), an online health behavior assessment, available to adult patrons at the Farmville Public Library in mid-eastern North Carolina. 

Burns said she was immediately drawn to the “Read & Reach” project when Flaherty mentioned it in class because of her own interests and experiences with children and youth services in the library. Burns has been working at the Durham County Library with the Library Youth Partners Program, which enables her to hire and train teenagers to help deliver children’s services like preparing for storytime.  Burns also works at the Duraleigh Road Community Library in Raleigh, providing both adult and children services, including family storytimes.

“I’ve been able to see how more active books would be beneficial, especially for preschool age children,” she said. “Those types of books really get them more engaged.”

Burns, who will complete her MSLS in May, will continue working with Flaherty over the next year to create the “Read & Reach”resource. She will be building on a list of books compiled in a previous study and seeking new titles through NoveList, WorldCat, and other databases. To help spread the word about the resource, Flaherty and Burns hope to present a panel at the Public Library Association (PLA) Conference in April 2016.

Photo: Faith Burns, left, and Mary Grace Flaherty examine a children's book that could potentially be used to promote physical activities during storytime.