A little over a year ago I was approached by Kate Schutz a Service Design Lead for the Calgary Public Library, regarding a project she was looking for help with. She wanted to screen print messaging onto floor mats from industrial felt, cut into bright geometric shapes.  These were to be used in the library’s early learning centers.  The intention was for children to use the shapes for play while relaying messages to parents or caregivers that would help support literacy development.

The Caregiver Messaging project is a set of eight large geometric floor shapes made of all-natural felt, backed by cork, in bright and appealing primary and secondary colours. On each shape is screen-printed an evidence-based short fact or practical tip for encouraging literacy at home, such as “Count and categorize. Knowing numbers helps with learning to read.

During a pilot test, children used them for a variety of different forms of imaginative play such as tangrams, hopscotch, stacking them to make towers and using them as props, often collaboratively with others, such as for “instruments” in an imaginary rock band! While picking up and moving the large, bright shapes, caregivers were drawn to find out what the children were doing and to help their children. Caregivers read the messages on them. The messages for the shapes were reviewed by Design and Delivery staff for clarity, accessible language and tone. A surprising outcome was the entry point it gave Library staff and volunteers to discuss the literacy tips with the families, as well as to have discussions about literacy (identifying letters and helping to form words), numeracy (shapes, patterns and counting), colors and other topics tied to the play. The Caregiver Messaging project has the dual-purpose of supporting caregivers with literacy tips and teaching children about shapes, pattern and colour, all while having fun and animating our libraries.”           Kate Schutz, Service Design – Calgary Public Library

We used the messaging provided by Kate's team, designed and printed 176 floor mats.  Each mat required nine to twelve coats which used two gallons of ink.  It was a great project but more so, it was an important message and I appreciated the opportunity to be a part of it.

Photography Elyse Bouvier