Did you know that Head Start was founded back in 1965, with Early Head Start joining the ranks in 1994? Both agencies promote the school readiness of young children from low-income families through agencies in local communities, making Head Start a perfect partner for the ALSC Liaison with National Organizations committee, and libraries in general. Head Start also promotes and enourages the role of parents as their child’s first and most important teacher, just like libraries do.
For the last two summers, I have worked with my local Head Start agency, which has 21 centers in Suffolk County, NY, to help promote the summer reading programs in our local libraries. One easy thing to do? If your library is part of the CSLP, you can share some of the great information on family literacy that promotes parents and summer reading.
On a state level, the NYS Library maintains a website, Summer Reading at New York Libraries that offers tip sheets for parents and caregivers on the importance of reading aloud in multiple languages, and an early literacy manual to download for childcare providers. I made 21 copies of the manual to share with each Head Start center in Suffolk County; encouraging the Head Start staff to share information on local summer reading programs with their families before the end of the school year. I also gave out any early literacy give-away item that I had purchased with our Family Literacy Services grant to both the public libraries and the Head Start sites. And, I have presented twice now at their yearly staff conference on topics such as “how to choose books for babies and toddlers” and “best books for early childhood.” The teachers and classroom aides really appreciated having a librarian come and share books that they can use in their classrooms.
A more extensive, and long term partnership has evolved over the last two years with our Head Start agency. They administered an early literacy pre-survey to families last summer for my office (I am the youth services coordinator for the Suffolk Cooperative Library System, with 54 member libraries). We provided the survey in both English and Spanish to over 1600 families, with over 900 being returned. Questions ranged from “I play with my baby or child every day” and “I know where my public library is in town” to “my baby or child participates in the summer reading program at our library.” It is our hope that we can administer a post-survey, asking the same questions, to returning families this September to see if we are creating change in early literacy knowledge and habits. Please feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions or comments about our local partnership with Head Start.
So help Head Start celebrate the 20th anniversary of its Early Head Start program this year by picking up the phone and making a call to your local site today. Because it’s never to early to start planning and building a partnership, one book and family at a time.
Lisa G. Kropp is the youth services coordinator of the Suffolk Cooperative Library System and a member of the ALSC Liaison with National Organizations committe and the Managing Children’s Services virtual committee. She also writes the First Steps column at School Library Journal.