Blogger Library Service to Underserved Children and Their Caregivers committee

On the Road to Early Learning

Photo Courtesy of Becca Ruidl, Chicago Public Library

The future of the economy is in STEM, that’s where the jobs of tomorrow will be according to data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) Employment in occupations related to STEM—science, technology, engineering, and mathematics—is projected to grow exponentially for the foreseeable future. It has been well documented that underprivileged children have a steep hill to climb to match their more affluent peers about STEAM education.

In Chicago, the Chicago Public Library STEAM team is helping to bridge the gap in the neediest neighborhoods. The STEAM Team is a group of outreach library staff who travel to Head Starts and Early Learning Sites throughout the city of Chicago to conduct STEAM-powered storytimes for pre-school aged children. STEAM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Math. Introducing these skills to kids at a young age helps make them more successful in everyday life. The STEAM Team had their first story time in October 2015 and has visited over 1,000 classrooms.

Image courtesy of Becca Ruidl, Chicago Public Library

In addition to the standard story time practices of reading books, singing songs, participating in rhymes and fingerplays, children can observe and participate in hands-on STEAM activities. Team members also bring in STEM objects for observation and ask children questions that encourage scientific thinking.


Photo Courtesy of Becca Ruidl, Chicago Public Library
Image courtesy of Becca Ruidl, Chicago Public Library
Photo Courtesy of Becca Ruidl, Chicago Public Library

The STEAM team covers many different topics including building, body science, coding, colors, earth sustainability, five senses, math, music, robots, transportation, and weather. Some favorite hands-on activities are color mixing, programming robots, building structures, creating “rain” with water cycle models, making x-rays, digging for dinosaur bones and listening to how heartbeats change through physical activity.

Image Courtesy of Becca Ruidl, Chicago Public Library

These programs offer highly engaging, developmentally appropriate content to help nurture curiosity and inquisitiveness in young children. By exposing children to think differently, ask questions and understand concepts now, it will help them feel more confident later on in reading, math, and any other field.

Additionally, the STEAM Team does outreach programming at parks and festivals, bringing early literacy and STEAM programming to people where the people are now, and connecting them back to the library.






Bringing STEM Education to Underserved Communities

Williams , Joseph P. “Bringing STEM Education to Underserved Communities.” U.S. News & World Report, U.S. News & World Report, 29 May 2014, 12:01a.m.,

Are Low-Income Children Left Behind in STEM?

Rozenfeld, Monica. “Are Low-Income Children Left Behind in STEM?” Military Drones: From World War II to the Present – IEEE – The Institute, 11 Jan. 2018,

Why Low-Income Kids Are Nowhere To Be Found In STEM 

Lynch, Matthew. “Why Low-Income Kids Are Nowhere to Be Found in STEM.” The Edvocate, 21 Nov. 2017,


Jason Driver is an Early Literacy Specialist Librarian at the Chicago Public Library. He enjoys storytelling, playing chess and raising his rambunctious girls among other things. He is the current co-chair of the Library Service to the Underserved Children and their Caregivers Committee.


This post addresses the following ALSC Core Competencies: I. Commitment to Client Group, III. Programming Skills, V. Outreach and Advocacy.


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