Thanks to a generous grant from the PNC Foundation, Columbus Metropolitan Library has developed and implemented the “Money Smarts for Preschoolers” storytimes, delivering financial literacy education through storytimes targeted at preschoolers and their caregivers. Centered on the themes of spending, sharing and saving, each Money Smarts program blends ready-to-read skills with financial literacy messages. Programs reach an average of 700 participants each month through a combination of daycare visits and branch storytimes.
As the Money Smarts programmer, I have had the opportunity to work extensively with daycares in Columbus’ most at-risk and impoverished areas. Due to a variety of factors, including food security issues at home, children in these neighborhoods often spend their entire day in a child care location. Working with daycares in at-risk areas is essential since it is often the only way these children will experience the library in their young lives.
Barriers to Library Service
With that in mind, it is important to recognize just some of the barriers daycare children and caregivers face. The existence of even one or two of the following factors in a child care environment is enough to pose a major barrier in accessing library services:
- staff and children restricted to premises
- high staff turnover
- inadequate support resources
- high stress work/life environment
- communication barriers
- transportation issues
- funding issues (sequestration, fluctuations in daycare income)
- inconsistent attendance due to instability in children’s lives
- distance to library and inclement weather
- security of neighborhood
- assistive needs of children
- lack of knowledge of library services
What We Can Do
Awareness of potential barriers daycares may encounter is the first step in overcoming them. Take the initiative to start the conversation and talk to your daycare providers, be curious and listen to understand their experience. Communicate frequently with both the center coordinators and the teachers, keeping everyone informed and “in the loop”. Check in with known centers regularly and stay alert for centers that may be off-the-grid. Be creative and innovative in your service options. If you can’t leave your location to visit the center, and the children can’t come to you, what can you do? Could you offer a storytime workshop to the center’s teachers to help them build their own skills? Could you create ready-to-go storytime kits that daycares could check out? Most importantly, be patient and persistent – things change quickly and frequently in daycare centers, maybe all that is needed is one more phone call or visit to start a beautiful relationship.
The PNC Foundation grant has allowed CML to build and strengthen relationships with 89 centers and 157 classrooms throughout Franklin County. Grants are an invaluable resource in providing the supplies and staff time needed to reach underserved and vulnerable populations of children. PNC Foundation’s Grow Up Great initiatives are particularly focused on underserved pre-K children. The Candlewick Press “Light the Way” grant, administered by ALSC’s Library Services to Special Populations and Their Caregivers Committee, is also focused on service to underserved populations and is currently accepting applications until December 1.
Sara Hathaway, Money Smarts for Preschoolers, Columbus Metropolitan Library, and ALSC Committee Member, Library Services to Special Population Children and Their Caregivers.