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Museums and Libraries Awarded Grants to Support Early Learning

Museums and libraries in 19 communities across the country are embarking on innovative programs to promote early literacy and school readiness thanks to $2.5 million in grants awarded by the Institute of Museum and Library Services.

The grants are among 52 National Leadership Grants totaling $12 million awarded last week by the Institute and expected to "advance the museum, library, and archive professions through new research and the creation and dissemination of innovative tools, models, and activities that can be shared broadly," according to institute Director Susan Hildreth.

The grants dedicated to early childhood were given to projects that represent the goals of the Institute's Campaign for Grade-Level Reading, which focuses on ensuring that low-income children are reading at grade level by 3rd grade. Studies have shown that kids who are reading on grade level by 3rd grade are able to shift from learning to read to reading for learning and to master more complex information while kids who don't achieve that proficiency are more likely to drop out before completing high school.

The grants were awarded to museums and libraries in communities from Arlington, Texas, to Erie, Pa., to St. Paul, Minn. Eight of the institutions are working directly with the institute's Campaign for Grade-Level Reading, according to an institute press release.

"The projects we are supporting are as diverse as the communities we will be reaching. They involve a wide range of partners such as schools, Head Start, the United Way, and Boys and Girls Clubs," Hildreth said. "These initiatives demonstrate the power of libraries and museums as community anchors that can help us reach children early and be a consistent presence throughout the school year and beyond."

Projects focus on preparing kids for school and making sure they don't lose ground over the summer, and many involve partnerships with local, state, and national agencies and organizations. Here are some of the highlights:

  • The Houston Public Library will use the city's $250,000 grant to partner with the Children's Museum of Houston to establish the "Pop-Up Library" program that is designed to curb summer reading loss in kids in kindergarten through 3rd grade and to engage families in summer reading programs. Sort of like the old book-mobile model, the Pop-up Library will bring library resources, books and programs to public spaces.
  • The Idaho Commission for Libraries will use its $250,000 grant to partner with other organizations on a program to put more books in the hands of kids through "Books in a Bag" kits that will be made available to 250 Head Start centers, preschools, child-care centers, and home-based child-care sites. Creation of an Internet-based virtual story time for families who don't get to the library is also part of the plan.
  • The Middle Country Public Library in Centereach, N.Y., will use its $450,000 grant to coordinate with 28 libraries across seven states to "implement and evaluate 'Family Place Libraries,' a library-based early-childhood and family-support service model," which will "focus parents/caregivers as first teachers, will be organized around the developmental needs of the child, and will link library services with other regional and local family support agencies."
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