Partners: American Falls School District/ ReadTalkPlay Committee, Idaho Public Television
The American Falls District Library used a multifaceted approach utilizing existing community organizations to support and promote early childhood education in American Falls. They worked collaboratively in the following areas: holding weekly story times in Spanish, partnering with Idaho Public Television (IDPTV) to hold family STEM nights, working with AF School District’s Read Talk Play Everyday initiative (RTP) to create and distribute kindergarten readiness publicity materials and summer learning backpacks, creating preschool skills kits/bins for patron and preschool use, and establishing stay and play activities in the library to promote readiness skills.
- Holding family programming events in the evening: We found from holding our family STEM nights in the evening that families appreciated the additional programming hours. Many families who are not able to attend our weekly, daytime story times we able to attend our evening programming and voiced their appreciation for the events.
- Partnering with RTP: Through our partnership with AF School District’s RTP initiative committee we found strength in being part of a cohesive community plan to promote, and strengthen early learning in American Falls. By collaborating we were able to strengthen the success of our program by utilizing resources (publicity, communication, & support) cohesively that were mutually beneficial to the library and the school’s initiative.
- Community education materials & summer learning backpacks: Through our collaborative efforts with RTP, we were able to successfully create a list of kindergarten readiness standards that can be used and promoted throughout our community. We also used these standards to create summer learning backpacks to provide and help parents provide learning opportunities and resources to teach these standards at home.
Our biggest success was the collaboration that took place with our partners, IPTV and RTP, and how by working together we were able to promote Kindergarten Readiness in our community on many different levels and in different ways than we had previously been able to. Through collaboration, we were able to produce educational materials to highlight the skills necessary to be kindergarten ready. We were able to teach and promote those skills during our STEM nights, having many families who are not normally library frequenters attend, at our Spanish story time hour, and with new preschool skill kits/bins available for checkout and library use. Head Start was able to use the skill bins we created during parent meetings with students, to show parents how to play with and teach their children through play. We also collaboratively put together 150 summer learning skills kits that will help parents have resources and ideas of activities to do with their children over the summer to help them develop skills necessary for kindergarten. Through our collaboration we were able to reach a broad range of families and provide education, materials, and knowledge about kindergarten readiness.
- Planning and holding events during Parent Teacher Conference week when the elementary school was out, was not a great time to hold an event. We had the lowest turnout at our STEM night when it was on a date when school was out.
- Finding a good way to expand our Spanish story time hour. We tried communicating through the school district’s Hispanic parent group, migrant council, word of mouth, businesses, individual contacting and other avenues and were never able to gain traction in our program. In the future we would try to hold our program during a different time of day or in the evening.
- Having our final two STEM nights canceled because of COVID-19 was frustrating. We were able to utilize the books we purchased to create reading bags for Head Start students that were handed out to families during the Stay at Home order. We also were able to create summer learning backpacks to give to families to help with early learning education at home during the pandemic to help offset the cancellation of our STEM nights.
Besides COVID-19 halting the momentum of the programming of our events, the biggest challenge we faced was our Spanish Story time program. We tried so many different avenues to advertise and promote our program and were never able to get a consistent larger attendance. We have a decent number of Hispanic families that attend the library and utilize it’s resources, and would communicate to these families about the story time, and each family would seem excited to attend and express interest in attending. But, many never attended. We were able to learn that communicating what library programs are in better detail (for example explicitly saying registration not required) is important when promoting and translating the promotion of the program.
Surveys at STEM night workshops: Surveys conducted at the beginning and end of each STEM night (see Documents and Resources). Parents had to turn in a completed survey before their children could receive the provided books and other promotional education materials from RTP. Many parents surveyed reported that they didn’t have a good understanding of STEM and were not comfortable doing STEM activities with their children, or using STEM language before our STEM nights. The majority of parents reported that they felt more comfortable doing STEM activities, using STEM language and had a greater understanding of STEM after each of our STEM nights.
Surveys periodically at our Spanish Story Time Hour