The Santa Barbara Public Library System has received a $50,000 grant to promote learning among low-income children. The award is part of a $2.5 million grant program that aligns the work of the federal Institute of Museum and Library Services with the goals of the national Campaign for Grade-Level Reading.
In December, IMLS announced that it would provide up to $2 million over two years to museums and libraries for projects that further the work of the campaign, which aims to increase the number of low-income children reading on grade level by the end of third grade.
Museums and libraries throughout the United States answered the call with so many strong proposals that IMLS awarded more than $2.5 million this year and plans to repeat the call again next year.
The Santa Barbara Public Library System and the Santa Barbara Museum of Art will plan, pilot and evaluate the potential for full implementation of a new program. This initiative will promote grade-level reading skills in children age 8 or younger by recruiting, training and encouraging older children to read with younger members of families.
Despite major public and private investments over the past decades, more than 80 percent of children in poverty nationwide are not reading at grade level by the third grade. This sets these students up for failure in the later grades, fueling achievement gaps and dropout rates. Research has shown that low-income students often lose two to three months of reading skills over the summer, while their more affluent peers continue to improve. Engaging programs can stop the summer slide and keep all children learning.
“Staff is very excited by this tremendous opportunity to boost reading skills in families most needing assistance,” Library Director Irene Macias said.
Aligning IMLS grants with the goals of the Campaign for Grade-Level Reading makes it possible for libraries and museum to stand together with the 124 cities, county and towns, including Santa Barbara, that have developed plans to improve early literacy. IMLS plans to broadly disseminate the results of these grants to continue to improve library and museum service nationwide.
“I am delighted at the response to this effort,” IMLS Director Susan Hildreth said. “The projects we are supporting are as diverse as the communities we will be reaching. They involve a wide range of partners from schools and Head Start to United Way and Boys & Girls Clubs, and 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 years and beyond.”
Many of the awards involve partnerships at the local, state and national levels and will engage museums, libraries and community organizations in coordinated efforts to act on the latest research and provide opportunities for young children and their parents and caregivers that really make a difference. A total of $2.5 million has been awarded to museums and libraries in 19 communities across the United States, Including 10 working with the campaign.
“We need to reach these children before they enter kindergarten, and we need to keep them learning through the summer,” said Ralph Smith, managing director of the Campaign for Grade-Level Reading and a senior vice president at the Annie E. Casey Foundation. “Museums and libraries are key partners for our communities.”
The campaign, launched in early 2011, is a collaboration among foundations, national nonprofits, state and communities across the nation to ensure that more children in low-income families succeed in school and graduate prepared for college, a career, and active citizenship. Click here for more information on the IMLS and its initiatives and partnerships.
— Scott Love is a library services manager for the Santa Barbara Public Library System.