Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Early Literacy Community Outreach in Webster, WI

Connecting with the Community
Charlotte Heidel had been working as a library volunteer, bringing parenting information to local Head Starts and daycare centers.  Charlotte Heidel and I participated in the Growing Wisconsin Readers initiative.  Our children's programmer, Annette Starkite, began a literacy program in our county through Northern Waters Literacy to tutor people of all ages.  So when Charlotte passed away, we formed our Early Literacy Committee in March of 2014, in response to our growing awareness of the need in our community for children under five to be prepared for entering kindergarten.  It was hard to get going - Charlotte had been the driving force of our early literacy programming. 
Our library was a recipient of a 1000 Books Before Kindergarten LSTA grant, through Northern Waters Library Service.  As part of the grant's requirements, we planned a Book Fair and 1000 Books
If You Feed Them, They Will Come
Before Kindergarten Kickoff during Gandy Dancer Days
  - 115 books were given away with an ice cream cone and we highlighted the 1000 Books Before Kindergarten program, giving away information packets to all interested parents and grandparents.  

Our committee feels strongly that we need to get books into the hands of our local children.  We have devised several ways to achieve this.  Connections, our local food pantry, lets us give children's books to the children that are present at food giveaways.  The Friends of the Library donated money to buy books to give to children in the community who don't use the library.  This was our second year of presenting a storytime at the Burnett County Fair and this year we gave a book to each child that attended our storytime in the 4H building (39 books were given away.)
1000 Books Before Kindergarten Materials 
The Early Literacy Committee has also purchased books (with monies granted to them by the Friends of the Library and Operation Roundup), to give to children at four local day care centers. The group plans on four "give-aways" per year (September, January, April and July). Each bag will contain an age-appropriate book, along with a song card for the children and a card with a reading tip for the parents, along with information about our "1000 Books Before Kindergarten" efforts. The song cards and reading tips were designed by the Early Literacy Committee specifically for this purpose. We will reach approximately 90 children with these "give-aways."

I applied for an early literacy grant from LSTA.  Our target population is children in the Webster Elementary School and in Mina Copeland Head Start who are also enrolled in the Happy Kids Backpack Program.  The children participating in this backpack program receive a backpack filled with food to take home every weekend during the school year  We plan to include a book along with the food they receive so they will have access to books at home.  By partnering with the Happy Kids Backpack Program, we will be reaching another special population who will benefit from the library's influence in their lives.Sometime this fall we are hoping to start a Read to a Dog program.  We have the OK from the village and received our library board approval this month.  

October 8 is the date for the dedication of memorial wall hanging "Remembering Charlotte" in the Children's Room. The Friends of the Library commissioned  Carole Fure to design and create a quilt to remember Charlotte by. It is the hope of our committee that giving books to children will spark an interest in reading, and help them to prepare for entrance into kindergarten.  We also hope that they and their families will begin to patronize the library and use our resources to help them all grow in literacy.

Patti Meyer, Library Director, 
Larsen Family Public Library, Webster, Wisconsin

Photos provided by the author