I have been impressed recently by the many articles, columns and books written on “nudging” people toward desirable behaviors. Of course there is much controversy about the role of government in all of this but there are some kernels of value to librarians and libraries.
Richard Thaler, who advised the Behavioral Insights Team in the UK government, wrote in his Economic View column in the New York Times, that kids from poor families have half the vocabulary by age of 3 of their more affluent peers; indeed, they have heard 30 million fewer words by age 3. This has enormous implications for school readiness and success. Of course, two antidotes are reading to kids and talking more with them. There is nothing new here for librarians or educators.
But what if children’s services, recently being repositioned as family literacy, took this research seriously and instead of reading to kids (chorus: do you need a master’s degree to…) specifically, methodically, publicly, strategically, set out to model and train parents and caregivers to get their kids ready for school success by reading aloud to them, not only before age 3 but throughout their formative years.
We could even ramp this up a bit. Librarians know, or should know, what research says about making a difference in many social, economic and educational areas, and could support the nudge through targeted programs and services. We could tie our practice to improving behaviors and effect.
Not only would we be making a difference of substance but demonstrating service of value. Fundable value.