Public Libraries are central to community development, especially when talking about building early literacy skills in children ages birth to five and empowering parents and caregivers to be their child’s first teacher – both inside and outside of our libraries. Of course, I do not need to convince the ALSC community of this – this is one of ALSC’s major tenets. With early childhood literacy being my passion and expertise, public libraries are a magical place to be.
However, after over five years of working in youth services for public libraries, I left Libraryland in the fall of 2018 to join Too Small to Fail (TSTF), the national early brain and language development initiative of the Clinton Foundation. TSTF loves libraries, but it was not an easy decision to leave the comforting, picture book filled walls of the library community to see if the rest of the country knows that public libraries are irreplaceable when it comes to building early literacy skills and empowering parents and caregivers.
Fortunately, in the last six (6) months of leading TSTF’s 24 and counting Talking is Teaching community campaigns across the country, I have seen nothing but support and revere for public libraries in the early learning space. Librarians are everywhere! They are in laundromats, playgrounds, parks, homeless shelters, community centers, WIC centers, hospital waiting rooms, pediatric clinics, home visiting programs, head start classrooms, and so many more places. Currently, my favorite spotlight on children’s librarians in the community is at laundromats!
In March 2019, Too Small to Fail, along with Libraries Without Borders and the LaundryCares Foundation co-hosted the second annual LaundryCares Literacy Summit in Chicago. Laundry professionals, public libraries, literacy nonprofits and funders from across the country gathered to learn about the incredible, strong partnership between early literacy organizations, children’s librarians, and laundromats in building a more literacy rich community. During the summit, Chelsea Clinton visited a local laundromat, Wash Time on Fullerton, where she unveiled a new “Family Read & Play” space, and announced a new commitment from the Chicago Public Library to expand their laundromat early literacy outreach to 10 new laundromats across Chicago, as a part of a pilot evaluation with TSTF and our Laundry Literacy Coalition partners. Additionally, PBS News Hour did a piece on the Laundry Literacy Coalition’s efforts, featuring weekly storytimes in laundromats led by Brooklyn Public Library, New York Public Library and Queens Public Library. This work is currently being evaluated, and preliminary results are all positive.
TSTF is all about meeting parents and caregivers where they are, and libraries are such a crucial part of making this happen. While I miss being in a public library, I am thrilled to continue being a library advocate and imploring every community I work with across the country to partner with their local library, if they haven’t already.
If you’re looking for new early literacy materials, TSTF also offers a multitude of free early literacy, STEM, and social emotional development resources. You just need to create an account at talkingisteaching.org!
Also, if you’re interested in continuing to expand your early literacy outreach, and becoming a Talking is Teaching community, don’t hesitate to reach out to me!
Kristen Rocha Aldrich: firstname.lastname@example.org