We have a new City Librarian and, joy of joys, he cares deeply about school readiness and early literacy. In fact, he stated in the Los Angeles Times on Sunday that he wants to offer a Books for Babies program here.
Well, heck – you bet we can do that! It’s a service offered by many libraries in all kinds of ways; a simple Google search brought up all kinds of nifty examples and models. And it goes along perfectly with the Every Child Ready to Read 2 parent workshops and early literacy-rich storytimes we already provide.
On to creating a plan. Hmm, suddenly I’ve got dozens of questions. Here are some of them:
- Do we use a ready-made kit or create our own? Should there be just books and brochures – or should we add educational toys and other items as well?
- How do we get the books and whatnot to the parents? Perhaps we could work with a hospital or clinic already using Reach out and Read. Perhaps we could work with an agency serving families with newborns. Perhaps we could deliver them via UPS like the Multnomah County Library does.
- Do we just offer the books to parents or do we offer tips and techniques on using them? I feel that books and brochures aren’t enough – to make a difference in knowledge and behavior, we need to make a connection, and that takes time and personal, meaningful contact with the parents. A great model is Columbia Metropolitan Library’s Ready to Read Corps.
- Who do we target? The City of Los Angeles is a very big place, so we’d need to narrow our focus. A particular population (like teen parents)? A particular neighborhood? A particular clinic or agency? All of the above?
- Who will do this? Current staff? Grant-funded staff? And how many of them?
- What will this project look like in one year? In five years? Will we try to stay small and laser-focused, or will we try to broaden our reach?
- What kind of budget is feasible?
- What partners shall we work with?
- And of course, most important of all – what are the desired outcomes of this project? Before we determine that, we’ll need to know something about the needs and current assets of the community where this pilot will take place.
So – “books for babies” sounds simple enough, but it is a project that is filled with glorious possibilities and complexities.
I’ll give you an update as we go forward so you can eavesdrop on our planning process.
In the meantime, I’d love to know about any “books for babies” services you provide at your library, whether simple or multifaceted, highly focused or broad-based.