2022-2023 Cohort of Kindergarten Readiness Grant Recipients

Twelve Idaho libraries received a Kindergarten Readiness grant (KRG) from ICfL this year, for a total of $60,000. Six libraries are implementing first-time projects, and six libraries are continuing, expanding, or enhancing projects for which they received the grant in previous years.

The ICfL Kindergarten Readiness grant provides state funding to help public libraries partner with their local school districts and other community partners to reach children and their families before they enter school. Libraries play an important role in early childhood success through the expertise of trained librarians, early literacy/learning programs, books, and digital tools that many families cannot afford on their own. Children who have been exposed to early literacy practices before they enter school are more likely to become successful readers throughout their years of schooling, and especially by the critical third-grade year.

The program has three primary goals: 

  • Ensure that more Idaho four-year-olds and their families have public library cards to gain access to the tools and resources needed to help children succeed in school, especially for families with limited access to preschool programming or who are not regular library users.
  • Increase the amount of early literacy activities done in the homes of four-year-olds across the state.
  • Increase the number of successful public library, school, and community partnerships that increase third-grade reading proficiency by focusing on pre-kindergarten experiences, especially for underserved children.

Kindergarten Readiness projects focus on creating, enhancing, or expanding programming for preschool-aged children, with an emphasis on reaching families who do not currently use library services or have access to preschool programs in their communities. Projects focus on best practices in early learning and library services and need to have a family engagement or education component. Libraries must have an active community partner such as a school or teachers, Head Start, university, service or government agency, or nonprofit organization.

This is the fifth year ICfL has awarded Kindergarten Readiness grants. Libraries that received the grant funding have created programs and services such as preschool classes, enhanced storytimes, early learning spaces, early learning kits and materials for checkout, accessible technology, parent/caregiver workshops, STEM-related activities, library cards for out-of-district families, and kits of supplies to take home and keep.

Libraries receiving current grant funds include Aberdeen District Library, Bonneville County Library District, Benewah County District Library, Caldwell Public Library, Cascade Public Library, Jefferson County District Library, Gooding District Library, Hansen District Library, Lewiston City Library, Oneida District Library, Rockland Community/School Library, and West Bonner District Library.

Here is a summary of the projects that will be implemented in 2022-2023:

Aberdeen District Library: Expanding on their 2021-2022 KRG, the library is providing additional early learning kits for checkout, and several of those will include Spanish language content. They will also continue to provide kits with learning supplies, such as scissors, crayons, and books, that families take home and keep. The final component of this project includes outreach storytimes at additional preschools. The library is partnering with Migrant-Seasonal Head Start. Contact: Tara Pratt

Bonneville County Library District: The library began service to the community this fall, and includes branches in Ammon, Iona, Swan Valley, and Idaho Falls (Westside). The majority of the grant funds will be used to create an early learning space at the Ammon branch, including a dramatic play area, seating, sensory panels, mobile bookcases, hands-on activities, and playhouse. Funds will also be used to create early learning kits for checkout, as well as tablets. A parent engagement workshop is in the works. The library is partnering with Head Start. Contact: Linda Barney

Benewah County District Library, Tri Community Branch: Previous grant funding established “K-Club,” a weekly two-hour session for preschool-aged children focusing on early learning skills (academic and social-emotional), which also includes education for parents and caregivers. There are no preschool programs available in Fernwood, other than K-Club. Current grant funding supports continued implementation of the program, as well as materials for outreach to children and families not currently attending K-Club. The library is partnering with Upriver Elementary School. Contact: Myrtle Mellon

Caldwell Public Library: The library and Western Idaho Community Action Partnership (WICAP) are collaborating to increase accessible resources and enhance early literacy skills for the children in Head Start centers in the Caldwell service area, especially those whose primary language is not English. They are engaging in outreach to non-library users, hosting parent/caregiver workshops, and providing early learning materials on-site at the centers. They are using grant funds to create early learning take-home kits and rotating deposit collections of books, and to purchase tablets and other early learning resources and materials to be used at the centers. The library and Head Start teachers are also partnering with the Caldwell School District. Contact: Ellie Epperson

Cascade Public Library: In 2019-2020 the library received grant funding to establish preschool programs and enhanced storytimes, focusing on parent engagement and early literacy skills development. The grant also created early learning kits for checkout, which contained books, early learning games, a tablet, and a mobile hotspot. The programs shut down with the pandemic and were not restarted when restrictions were lifted, due to staff shortage. Current grant funding provides a stipend for a preschool facilitator who will build up attendance and coordinate the program. The library is partnering with the Cascade School District and Horizons Lifestyle and Education. Contact: Maria Guest

Gooding District Library: The library received previous KRG funds to add STEM components to existing programs and storytimes (both in-house and through outreach), and also to their Ready! for Kindergarten parent/caregiver workshops. They are using current funds to add a social-emotional component to storytimes, as well as to establish a new Kindergarten Readiness storytime in partnership with the Wendell Public Library. The library is also partnering with the Gooding School District, North Valley Academy, Bliss School District, Migrant-Seasonal Head Start, the local laundromat, the Lee Pesky Learning Center, and the Idaho Association for the Education of Young Children (Idaho AEYC). Contact: Cindy Bigler

Hansen District Library: The library is using grant funds to establish preschool programs every other Saturday beginning in November. Content will focus on early literacy skills development, as well as social interaction and emotional well-being. Part of each program will be interaction with parents/caregivers about how to help develop school readiness skills through activities and routines at home. Grant funds will also be used to create early learning kits in both English and Spanish for checkout. The library is partnering with the ESL teacher at Hansen Elementary, and Head Start. Contact: Cindy Bjorneberg

Jefferson County District Library, Menan-Annis Branch: Grant funds will create “Preschool in a Tote” bags for checkout, as well as “Ready-Set-Go” packets with supplies that will be handed out in conjunction with a fall School Readiness event for families with preschool children. Both the totes and the packets are designed for parents and caregivers to support the development of early learning skills at home. Funds will also purchase nonfiction picture books, and Kindles with early learning programs to be used on-site. The library is partnering with kindergarten teachers at Midway Elementary School, and several local preschools. Contact: Laurie Willmore

Lewiston City Library: The library will use grant funds to conduct outreach storytimes and distribute books to preschool children, based on ICfL’s My First Books program. At the last outreach visit in May each child will receive a Kindergarten transition backpack. Funds will also be used to expand the library’s “Tales by Mail” program, in which the library mails home paperback books to preschool-aged children over the summer months. The library is partnering with the Lewis-Clark Early Learning (Head Start) Program. Contact: Colleen Olive

Oneida District Library: The library received funding in 2021-2022 to create 50 early learning backpacks for checkout, and to create videos for each one that helps parents/caregivers engage with their child/ren using the backpack materials. Due to an extensive waiting list for the backpacks they are using current grant funds to create 30 additional preschool kits and videos. The videos can be accessed on the library’s Niche Academy site. The library is partnering with the kindergarten teachers at Malad Elementary. Contact: Kathy Kent

Rockland School/Community Library: Building on the previous KRG funding they received in 2020-2021 in which they established storytimes and created early learning kits, the library is enhancing their preschool play area, assembling more early learning kits, and providing a stipend for a facilitator to regenerate their weekly storytime, in order to encourage families to increase library usage and stay longer when they visit. The library is partnering with the district superintendent and kindergarten teacher. Contact: Hanalorraine Miller

West Bonner District Library, Priest River and Blanchard Branches: The library is partnering with the Priest River Community Foundation (PRCF) to host Idaho AEYC’s Ready! for Kindergarten workshops at both branches throughout the year. The PRCF will provide Ready! for Kindergarten take-home kits for each participating family, meals for workshop nights, and child care, and updates to the physical spaces at the library, such as the children’s areas and meeting rooms. KRG funds will be used to create approximately 30 early learning kits for checkout, to supplement the content that is taught in the workshops, as well as on shelving for the kits and promotion. The library is also partnering with the local elementary schools. Contact: Josie Terhune

Plan now for the next round of grants!

Do you have an idea for a kindergarten readiness program, project, or service? The best way to prepare to apply for a 2023-2024 Kindergarten Readiness grant is to work through our community needs assessment tool, which we call our “Kindergarten Readiness Challenge.” This toolkit will help you identify assets, partners, and need in your area, and help you determine the best way to use grant funds to meet those needs.

The 2023-2024 application will be open in the spring, and is due August 31, 2023. You can find more information about the grant requirements and spending eligibility at https://libraries.idaho.gov/rtm/kinder-grant/.

For questions, or to brainstorm possible grant projects, contact Staci Shaw staci.shaw@libraries.idaho.gov