Effective and Memorable Public Value Narratives: Examples for Public Libraries

Public Value Narrative: Curt’s Story: Reading to a Dog

The following is a true story about a youngster in the “Read to a Dog” program and it illustrates the four parts of a public value narrative. People who use this approach seldom repeat this word for word but they always cover all four parts in the order shown.

Curt’s Story: Reading to a Dog

Story: Our story starts in September 2014. Curt, a bright, energetic youngster, was 8 years old in the third grade. His family lived in a wealthy coastal town in Maine with one of the best school systems in the state. Curt’s parents, like most well-educated parents, believed that the high quality of the local schools would give Curt lifelong advantages. His father, Tom, pictured Curt achieving great things. But as Curt started third grade in September, he struggled with reading. He was very anxious when asked to read. Tom, his dad, told me that he tried to get Curt to read at home but it was like pulling teeth. Tom tried every means possible of encouraging Curt to read more. But nothing seemed to work. Then Tom saw an announcement about the “Read to a Dog” program at the library and signed Curt up for 15 minutes reading to Winston, a golden lab, on the next Wednesday. Curt loved it and asked to come back the next day to read to Maddie, a black lab. Curt and his dad, Tom, have come back twice a week for the past four months. Curt’s attitude about reading improved remarkably. He now voluntarily reads to his dad, Tom, at night, something which totally surprised Tom. And now, he begs his dad, to take him to the library and to the bookstore. Tom says his son, Curt, is reading 200 to 300 percent better than before he starting in the library’s “Read to a Dog” program. Obviously, Curt is laying the foundation to do better in school, to go through it faster, and to go further. He and his family will benefit from this in many ways.

Statistic: “About 100 children have participated in the “Read to a Dog” program in our library since it started.”

Research on Program: Fortunately, there is considerable research that show Curt’s results are common. This is a very effective program for helping kids learn to read.”

Public Value Statement: “While obviously Curt and the other kids in this program benefit a lot, indirectly it benefits all the rest of us, even if we have no kids or grandkids here in town. These kids do better in school, which saves taxpayers money in the short run and results in more productive members of society in the long run. So even as a senior with no grandchildren in this community, I see a lot of indirect benefits of this program to myself and my wife.”

Additional Public Value Narratives: There are additional examples and suggestions on how to develop the stories, statistics, research and public value statements.

Thanks to Rachel Davis, Assistant Director/Children’s Librarian of the Thomas Memorial Library, Cape Elizabeth, Maine for relating this true story and putting me in touch with Curt’s dad “Tom.” And thanks to “Tom.” (both names are pseudonyms for privacy) for sharing the story.