The economic divide in America is a growing concern to librarians, especially as we have learned time and again that children who come from households in the lower socio-economic brackets often enter Kindergarten less prepared than their more affluent peers. I don’t need to use this space to reiterate all of the research that shows how language-rich environments help children, and how libraries can help caregivers and children. I know that children’s librarians from across the country are already thinking creatively about how to best reach underserved populations with engaging outreach and programming. But did you know that there is a well established national nonprofit that already has connections with some of the hardest to reach families in your community? This nonprofit is eager to work with libraries because their mission very clearly overlaps with ours.
The Parent-Child Home Program (PCHP), an evidence-based early literacy, parenting, and school readiness model, is committed to closing the achievement gap by providing low-income families the skills and materials they need to prepare their children for school and life success. — www.parent-child.org
PCHP was founded in 1965, and has years of data showing how their model helps children succeed. Community-based early literacy specialists, the PCHP home visitors, are hired and trained locally, and work with families in their homes, building trusting relationships over time. In the home, the home visitors model reading, conversation, and play activities for caregivers.
I spoke with Sarah Walzer, CEO of PCHP, and we agreed that public libraries and PCHP make perfect partners. Already, PCHP works with libraries around the country in various ways. 2 PCHP sites on Long Island, NY are actually housed in libraries (most are housed in school districts or through social services or other community-based organizations). All PCHP site coordinators and home visitors are encouraged to set up visits to local libraries, taking families to the library to get cards, book advice, and begin to feel comfortable and welcome there. PCHP staff sometimes reach out to local libraries to ask for specific programs, like bilingual storytimes or a special storytime for PCHP families.
Ms. Walzer emphasized that PCHP staff are experts in connecting with the families we want to reach: non-native English speakers, new immigrants, and those living at the bottom of the economic ladder. We should be using these experts to help us reach families and learn more about how to best serve them.
I encourage you to use the PCHP website to find if there is a site located near you. If there is, pick up the phone and reach out to them! We can work together to help children have success in school and life. Do you already work with a local PCHP site or have ideas of how to partner with them? Please share in the comments.
Ashley Waring is a Children’s Librarian at the Reading Public Library in Reading, MA. She is a member of the ALSC Liaison with National Organizations Committee.