Lego in libraries

This page aims to bring together a whole ton of information on lego in libraries in one place.  Why? Because I love lego. I remember playing with it as a child so it was particularly thrilling to see so many references to lego in public libraries in so many countries.  There’s active clubs in the USA, England, Wales (special shout out to Newport, my home town, which is taking its Lego Robotics club out into local primary schools) and Australia.  Closer to my home in Cheshire there’s clubs in Northwich, Crewe and Alsager to name just a few, with others starting.

Not yet sold on the life-changing power of lego?  Have a look at this video first:

 
Through the wonder of Twitter, I was put in contact with the award-winning (for lego, naturally) Jo Beazley in Australia who kindly sent me a ton of information.  Thanks also to MyLee Joseph for connecting me with Jo and for sending me more stuff besides: I had not realised, for example, how connected lego could be with literacy and also how one could connect duplo with preschool children. So, have a look through and see what can help you … and if you have any stuff which you want  added, or any queries, let me know at ianlibrarian@live.co.uk or at @publiclibnews.

So, why have lego in libraries?

Here’s all the reasons I could find, there’s quite a few:

  • Attract boys into the library.  Lego attracts both genders, with experience suggesting boys more than girls.
  • All age ranges catered for – from toddler (Duplo – measuring twice the width, height, and depth of a standard Lego block) to teens.
  • Offers physical and mechanical skills in a library setting, which is fairly rare (1) thus encouraging STEM (Science Technology Engineering Mathematics) skills.  From the basis, it is easy to move from there into Lego Mindstorms robots (and computer coding) and beyond, even into Maker Spaces.
  • Boost attendance and thus book issues.
  • Encourage play between parents and children.
  • Encourage phonic awareness and vocabulary through play
  • Promote foundation, early, family literacy and numeracy and digital literacy skills in a non threatening environment
  • Promote problem solving and learning though tactile and kinesthetic means.
  • Create displays
  • Easy to manage
  • Enjoyable

Here’s what Jo says:

“Play is one of the primary ways children learn about the world; it has been shown to improve creativity, problem solving skills, memory, language and attention span among children. LEGO Literacy Club promotes play with the basics of language encouraging children to experiment, problem solve, create words and rhymes, learn new vocab and practice letters and numbers using LEGO bricks. It builds upon these skills by using playtime as an opportunity to develop the foundation, early literacy and family literacy skills of young people and their parents and carers.” Oakey Library

… and here’s a video that was created from one of the sessions (which ties in so much together, it is almost guilty of showing off…)

Read the story then get the children to build the houses and characters from Three Little Pigs (Logan Libraries, Australia).

“What’s the connection between Legos and books, you ask? Promoting play contributes to early literacy development by increasing attention span, memory, creativity, and language and vocabulary skills. It also lays the foundation for logical mathematical thinking, scientific reasoning, and problem solving—things they’ll carry with them throughout their school years, says “Play = Learning,” a recent study by Dorothy Singer, a senior research scientist at Yale University’s Department of Psychology and Child Study Center.” School Library Journal.

What is needed

So, are you now sold on the idea? Here’s what I have found you need:

A theme for every session.  This can be a story (e.g. Three Little Pigs) for the toddlers to Harry Potter, zoo animals (e.g. Crewe Library), Robots, Mad Scientist, ancient Egypt, robots, pirates, symmetry, desert island, dinosaurs, breakfast, mad scientist, and It Came From Outer Space. For extra points, have a slideshow beforehand of lego ideas on the theme (Google will help you here). Also consider having a book display on the theme in the room. Jo suggested the following themes:

Transport

Weather

Space

Science

Superheroes

Weapons

Dinosaurs

Harry Potter

Castles and Knights

Animals

Transformers

Under the sea

Insects

Buildings/bridges

Sculptures

Music

Recipes

Fairy Tales

Ancient Wonders eg Pyramids

Pirates

Flags

  • Ensure bricks are suitable for each age group: Duplo for toddlers, lego for everyone else, themed sets (optional) for older children, robotics etc.  Aim for £200 plus of bricks (skies the limit) including (vitally) baseplates and lego “people” then grow as appropriate. Bear in mind it’s likely your bricks will, even if they start all nicely ordered, soon get muddled up with eachother big time.  Also consider that siblings of different ages may come in so allow them to play together or give some thought as to how you’re going to split them (e.g. tots and older children).
  • Consider differentiating tables – one for “free play”, one for “word play” (Includes:  find-a-word puzzles; cross words, colouring in & dot-to-dot activities as well as speech bubbles) and one for “directed play” (Interpreting the monthly theme, members of the club use LEGO to build and create)
  • A camera to take pictures for your Facebook page (not only will this publicise your sessions but relatives of the children will look at your page too and hence widen its readership).  For extra points, send emails to those attending with a link to the pictures. For extra extra points, make a video of the stories made from lego.
  • Put the best creations in a display case for the month between sessions so children can proudly show off their work and promote the next session.
  • To improve literacy, consider putting labels on individual lego bricks to allow them to be used to make sentences or even poems and stories.
  • Health and Safety – Ensure all bricks are age appropriate (e.g. no non-duplo for toddlers due to the choking hazard) and are cleaned if donated (or even if not and are just plain too well-loved).
  • Make sure you have big boxes to hold the lego pieces between sessions.
  • Here’s a suggested schedule for each session can be found here.
  • There’s even music suggested for pre-school Duplo sessions.

How to get the bricks

  • Solicit donations from users and staff – Put a notice up and ask via Facebook, flyers etc.  However, lego has a resale value and so the level of response may depend on the prosperity of the area.
  • Ask local businesses – For instance, this Library got $200 of lego from its local Asda. Local supermarkets generally are a good bet.  How about trying a toy shop as well and offer publicity for them?
  • Councillors – Ask local councillors if you work in an authority where they have special community budgets.
  • Lego itself – Contact them and explain that you’re encouraging loads of children to use lego.  They’ll like that.
  • Friends groups

Frequency of meetings

monthly but ensure that they are always on a set day in that month. Oakey Library, Toowoomba, Australia for one hour.  Radnor Memorial Library, USA for one and a half hours on last Sunday of the month. Crewe Library UK every Tuesday for one hour.  Oakland (USA) on second Friday of the month.

Nothing new under the sun

The now retired Ian Stringer sent me an email recalling using lego in libraries over several points of his career:

“When I edited Service Point I had 3 pictures sent at various times with pictures of Mobile Libraries that children had made. Its a sign of how well the mobiles were loved that the children were both inspired to build models of them and bring them into the library to show to the staff.

However it is my lego story sessions in Barnsley district that hold the best memories. When my sons were teenagers they had a great big collection of lego.  We sorted out 20 packs containing some wheels and various bricks. Each pack was identical. I wrote to lego and told them of my plans and they sent me lots of Lego goodies such as stickers and little people.  At the story session I read a book about car racing and then the kids had to make a car and there was a prize for the one that went the furthest . All pieces had to be used.

My next story was about a tall tower and then the kids had to use the same bricks to make the tallest tower. At the library in the high Pennines all the kids came to story times in best clothes with mum and dad. The dads took the competition very seriously and we had some wonderful innovative designs and lots of applause when I gave out prizes. In the east in the big estate by the coal mine it was totally different. The kids were scruffy and noisy, but the session went down a treat. I soon realised that when I had said which car would travel the furthest I hadn’t actually said on its wheels. Before I knew it cars were being thrown the length of the library causing mayhem in the large print section just outside the childrens section.

Then the tower. Once again the kids had their own interpretation. It became a matter of the tallest SURVIVING tower. The kids gradually formed two sides . Initially they threw bricks at each others tower to knock them down but then realised they could save up any thrown bricks and make their own tower bigger. Then they had raiding parties. Finally we were left with two very tall towers surrounded by ‘guards’ Diplomatically I gave out prizes to both teams… and found lego stickers all over bus shelters for the next few months!”

Other lego librarian stuff

1. There is a specific lego librarian figurine.  It is of a woman with glasses and long hair, holding a mug with “shhh!” written on it and holding a book with the title “Oranges and Peaches”.  Why that title? Well, it’s an in-joke about a reference enquiry where it eventually turned out the student wanted …. you guessed it yet?  There’s even a film clip.

“Books are just about the Librarian’s most favorite thing in the entire world. Reading them can take you on exciting adventures in far-off lands, introduce you to new friends and cultures, and let you discover poetry, classic literature, science fiction and much more. If only everybody loved to read as much as she does, the world would be a better place…and quieter, too!” Blurb on Lego Librarian figure.

2. The A of Z of Libraries Kickstarter page gave away a lego minifigure as a prize to one of its first one hundred backers.  The minifigure has a wine glass and a cat.

3. There’s 28 different librarian types made of lego show in this excellent blog.

Warning: Lego can cause side effects

Warning: Lego can cause side effects

4. You can use lego as an art lesson, imagining what someone would look like as lego – See this page’s “Vincent Le’Gogh”.

5. Lego libraries and bookstores – want to see what a library looks like made of lego? Inside and out? Here’s you chance. There’s some amazing stuff here.

References

    • Block Party: Legos in the Library – School Library Journal (USA) 2009.  It also has a great list of online lego resources.
    • How to Host a Lego Club – Show Me Librarian.  This is a very useful post and I have used this a lot in putting together this page.
    • Read Build Play – An US national programme in 2013 with Duplo: “To help parents lay the foundation for literacy, the Association for Library Service to Children (ALSC), has created the LEGO® DUPLO® Read, Build, Play 2013 Summer Reading List. Featuring rich stories that are proven winners, the list has five books for children 1-3 and five books for children 3-5 (available at your local library).”
    • Toowomba Lego Literacy Club document.
    • Toowomba policy document.

Carillion Libraries and Lego Education (July 2015)

One of the issues with any “extra” library activities, especially in the UK, is identifying the funding.  The private company Carillion has approached this head on in England with the provision of the latest Lego Education materials for a fee not just to library users but also to schools and businesses….

Carillion Libraries are working in partnership with LEGO Education to deliver exciting resources linked to the STEM and literacy curriculums to children developing an interactive learning environment in the library. Carillion manage library services on behalf of the local authorities in Croydon, Ealing, Harrow and Hounslow. Library staff have been trained on how to use the resources and deliver sessions and session plans are included as part of the resource. The resources include computer software that helps children build models step by step adding sensors to the models which brings them to life using basic coding and robotics.

Carillion Libraries will be launching the resources with a visit from LEGO Education to each of their four boroughs in July, with some taster sessions in the summer and the offer of regular LEGO clubs using the box sets of resources and computer software on a weekly basis from September. The aim is to deliver sessions in partnership with Family Learning and with schools. The websites give further information an example is the Ealing Libraries website. Email from Carillion (July 2015)

Carillion updated their lego experience on the Libraries Taskforce webpage in March 2016.

The range of resources include:

The libraries will offer free taster sessions over the Summer. From then on there will be weekly lego clubs as well as other activities not previously seen in public libraries including “Lego parties”, the hiring out of Lego sets for INSET days in schools, team building sessions for businesses and – interestingly – class visits to libraries which will include 45 minutes in the normal library and 45 minutes using the lego. It is expected that most, if not all, of the latter will be charged for, with the class visits being pitched at £100

And, finally, selling it to the decision makers

This is how Logan Libraries (Australia) describe the project in their “Programming and future proofing for the school years in Logan City Council Libraries” document:

“Logan City Council Libraries are ideally suited to running LEGO Literacy programs due to Logan being home to more than 280,000 people from more than 185 different cultures.  According to the Socio-Economic Index of Advantage (SEIFA), 30.3% of the population of Logan City Council Local Government Area (LGA) was in the most disadvantaged quintile.  This compares to 20% for Queensland.  Logan City’s AEDI results suggest that children in the area need assistance in the areas of communication skills and general knowledge, language and cognitive development and social competence and emotional maturity.  The LEGO Literacy program addresses many of these needs.

Play has been shown to impact creativity, problem solving skills, memory, and language and can increase attention span among children.  LEGO Literacy Club builds upon these skills by using playtime as an opportunity to develop the foundation, early literacy and family literacy skills of young people and their parents and carers.

Aims of the program include to:

  • Provide a creative and attractive program for children to experiment with verbal, written and visual language.
  • Provide a model and opportunity for parents/carers to participate with their children in activities that promote play and experimentation with language.
  • Increase the use of the library collection by highlighting and promoting books and resources related to each theme as seen by borrowing statistics
  • Facilitate discussion and sharing of creative ideas via verbal communication
  • Promote phonic awareness and vocab through play.
  • Promote library resources and programs to parents/carers and young people
  • Promote foundation, early, and family literacy and numeracy skills in a non-threatening environment.
  • Promote problem solving and learning though tactile and kinaesthetic means.

The idea for LEGO Literacy was developed into a program by the Library Programming Team at Logan City Council Libraries. LEGO had always been part of our games collections at the libraries but with the connection to literacy the use of these play-based resources has expanded into purposeful programming.   LEGO and DUPLO bricks with sight words printed onto them form the basis of each program.  Five tables are set up with different literacy-based LEGOactivities, and childrenmake their way round to each LEGO station.

Play is one of the primary ways children learn about the world.  General knowledge is an important literacy skill that helps children understand books and stories once they begin to read.  LEGO literacy promotes play with the basics of language encouraging children to experiment, practice, create words, rhymes, learn new vocab, letters and construct meaning using LEGO bricks.

Reading together, or shared reading, remains the single most effective way to help children become proficient readers. LEGO Literacy promotes the library collection to the children and parents/carers attending.   As part of the program library staff and participants share stories, read words and sentences, clues and puzzles to inspire activities and LEGO creations.  Children are also encouraged to read and follow the instructions as they put together a LEGO kit.

Writing and reading go together.  Writing helps children learn that letters and words stand for sounds and that print has meaning.  Children can create text, speech bubbles, scripts, plans and designs and add words to the library LEGO collection encouraging reading and writing. Sight word bingo is an important part of this, and participants write the words read to them, while searching their LEGO pieces for the specific sight word.

Digital literacy skills are improved through participation by the children in using digital cameras to document their creations, using iPads to photograph their creations as well as using specific apps to create stop motion animation stories.  iPad LEGO apps can also be used.

Parents and carers attending have been thrilled with the language and literacy focus of the clubs, as many had expected the children to just be playing with the LEGO.

*The Lego Literacy program recently received the 2012 ALIA Children and Youth Services Bess Thomas Award.”

  • #1 written by Lego MiniFaulkner
    about 3 years ago

    I heartily endorse the use of Lego in libraries. There are so many different individual minifigure parts, all available from specialist online sellers, that it’s possible for older children to make custom figures based on their favourite characters, or authors!

    Great post.

  • #2 written by Krys
    about 3 years ago

    I saw this and thought “I wonder how this would go if I had a Lego suitcase in my Jr High library”.
    – Krys

  • #3 written by Linda Mofffatt
    about 1 year ago

    We love Lego Clubs in Cornwall! We started setting up clubs in Autumn of 2014 and were overwhelmed with enthusiasm from parents and children. We now have six and want to set up more but struggle to get the Lego. Appeals to local supermarkets fell on deaf ears and many people want to keep their collections for their children/grandchildren. But we aren’t deterred and go to car boot sales, buy used online and get the occasional donation, for which we are thankful. We will be setting our next club in Newquay Library in Septmber.
    We deliberately don’t look for sets and provide mostly basic bricks and the creativity we see when the imagination is let loose is brilliant.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

*

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>