Shannon Brennan, Children’s Librarian at the Bemis Public Library in Littleton and Steering Committee Member of the International Library and Cultural Exchange Interest Group, has been named the 2021 Employee of the Year for the City of Littleton, a most deserved award. She faced stiff competition for this city-wide award, but as the record of accomplishments attest, her dedication to the community and to library services to children is self-evident. She was recognized for her community outreach work, her promotion of a healthy and caring workplace, and her early literacy work supporting children to be school ready. As a children’s librarian, Shannon’s work with children and their families has a profound impact on a child’s early literacy development and school success.
Recognizing an influx of families with children from birth to five years old frequenting the children’s area of the Bemis Public Library, she increased promotion of children’s services to children and their parents and care givers.
Shannon’s first initiative was to apply for and receive the Colorado State Library grant “Growing Readers Together,” a program funded by the Buell Foundation and distributed to multiple libraries and library districts in Colorado. This award funded two programs: Take Home Story Time Kit and 1000 Books Before Kindergarten Program at Bemis.
Any child who attends story time at Bemis or any child upon request receives a Take Home Story Time Kit that consists of an egg shaker, play scarf, and song/rhyme booklet. Shannon selected over 20 rhymes, songs, fingerplays that are routinely used during Bemis story times that families can repeat at home using the props provided in the kit. These activities promote early literacy skills that build a foundation for reading and school readiness.
The 1000 Books Before Kindergarten is a nation-wide program that is new to Bemis. Shannon designed a schedule with built-in incentives and used the grant to provide prizes throughout the process of reading 1000 books. This program focuses on children ages birth to kindergarten and encourages parents to read 1,000 books to their child before they start kindergarten. Participants receive a book log and a series of prizes as they progress through their 1,000-book goal. The ability to learn language skills is greatest before the age of six. The most important predictor of school success is being read to at home during early childhood. Since Shannon launched the program at Bemis, over 300 families have signed up to participate.
In addition, it was her desire to expand on the popular StoryWalk®, which displays pages of a picture book in sequential spots to promote reading and walking. Bemis Public Library started one at the Gallup Gardens park, located adjacent to the Bemis Library during Summer 2020. It was so well received during the pandemic that it has continued ever since.
The popularity of StoryWalk® quickly grew, and the Aspen Grove Shopping Center indicated interested in participating with the book pages on display in their store fronts. Shannon brokered a partnership with them in June 2021. Originally planned for one month, the partnership proved so popular that the shopping center has asked to continue the story walk partnership indefinitely. Each month, Shannon organizes and implements a new children’s story in the shopping center’s windows. Children and their families walk from store to store reading the story together ending at Tattered Cover where they receive a small incentive for reading the book and answering a question about it. Tattered Cover also made a point to order extra copies of each monthly book installment and volunteered to hand out small prizes as incentives for kids reading the book. Aspen Grove expanded the program to include a QR code scan contest for ongoing monthly prizes.
Shannon is also dedicated to the library profession. She has served on the ILCE-IG steering committee for three years and has been instrumental in organizing and scheduling programs at the annual CALCON conferences, marketing the programs, and scheduling speakers. She recently updated the ILCE-IG brochure that serves as a key marketing tool.
She has been selected to participate for a two-year term with the CLEL (Colorado Libraries for Early Literacy) Bell Award Selection Committee. Each year the committee reads all the 2021 book nominations for the five early literacy practices and selects a book for each category that is best represented: Read, Write, Sing, Play, and Talk. These areas are the foundation to reading and promoted between birth and five years of age.
Testimony of two of the nominators:
“Shannon Brennan is a unique and special part of the Children’s Department at the Library. Shannon especially stands out because of her great attitude and welcoming personality. There is always a smile. She puts her best in everything she does from setting up the walking stories at Aspen Grove to assisting mothers and fathers with materials for their children. More importantly, she plays an incredible role in bringing special programs within the Children’s Department to life for all the children to enjoy. Shannon also adds her talent to the Employee Recognition Committee and the Director’s Council. she is always present and ready to go. Shannon’s devotion and graciousness toward her work demonstrates how essential Shannon’s service is to Bemis Library.”
“Shannon’s thoughtfulness and caring has helped promote a workplace in which staff feel valued and cared for. Shannon is a stellar employee who is always looking for new and creative ways that the library can positively impact the lives of Littleton families and promote a lifelong love of reading and learning.”
Congratulations, Shannon, for this well-deserved honor.
Note: ILCE-IG is an interest group of the Colorado Association of Libraries and is celebrating its tenth year as a committee in 2022.