Abstract

Participant observation, unlike the more traditional approach of querying adults about children's experiences, is identified as an appropriate and effective method for studying babies and toddlers in public library settings in order to explore these experiences from the children's own perspectives. In an observation study of eleven, thirty-minute baby storytimes conducted at two branches of a large public library system, the naturally occurring behavior of the children captured through observation field notes and audio-recording and transcription of the program successfully revealed numerous incidents of emergent literacy activities and social interaction. This article discusses the practicalities of implementing participant observation in storytime programs for very young children. Special requirements related to informed consent, the need to protect baby and toddler participants, and the challenge of gaining and maintaining access are addressed. Included is an appendix of recommended observation, child development, and research methods texts.

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