ALA Annual 2017

#alaac17 Closing The Opportunity Gap

“Start with one person and see what can grow from there.” Marie Jarry and Joel Nichols gave advice on building partnerships between libraries and schools to close the opportunity gap for early literacy success.

In schools, 3rd grade is often the point deemed where having proficient reading skill is so important for a child’s future learning.  Between grades K-3 students are learning to read, but after 3rd grade they are reading to learn.  And that is why early literacy is so crucial.  Marie Jarry, from Hartford, CT, talked about her library’s partnership with the schools and government, called Boundless.  She gave strategies of how her library made changes to better serve the children in her area.

First they created consistent reading terminology and resources between the schools and the public libraries.  They leveled their beginning reader collection with colored stickers and created charts so parents could be more aware that their children had a reading level in school and what the most appropriate books were.  Their library went a step further and created kits called “Readers to Go” that had leveled readers and comprehension questions they created with school teachers and literacy specialists, which families could check out and use at home.

Another strategy was to gain buy-in at the leadership level, or in other words, with the stakeholders and key players of the schools and government (i.e. superintendents, principals, library directors, etc.).  She created a chart, which seemed overwhelming to me as a new librarian.  But her piece of advice, to start with one person in a school and just see where it could go from there, really helped reduce that overwhelmed feeling.

If you have no idea where to start, her advice was to just start asking, “What do you need from us?”  And see where it leads.

Joel Nichols, from Free Library of Philadelphia also shared the initiatives at his library called Building Bridges with Books and Bringing Libraries and Schools Together (BLAST).  These two programs were designed around the fact that the schools did not have school librarians, and the students needed more support in early literacy.

With the support of a grant, the library scheduled trips with the schools so classrooms could visit the library and that a librarian could go into the classroom every month.  They held family engagement seminars and set the students up with access to Tumblebooks.

They created a curriculum with schools on how the library could help them: information they could find there, library technology 101, and how to be a super searcher, note taking superstar, super synthesizer, and great presenter.

Finally, Tim Carrigan from IMLS closed and offered some great resources on the IMLS site to get you started with Strengthening Networks and Sparking Change.

Such a great session with lots of real examples of how to help early literacy in your community.  I would love to hear your thoughts and ideas on library and school partnerships in the comments below.

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