In 2012, the Colorado State Library received a $41,146 grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) to research the barriers that low-income parents of children birth-3 encounter in incorporating early literacy activities into their daily lives, as well as barriers to library use, and how public libraries and early childhood organizations can help to remove those barriers.
To encourage early learning, the State Library partnered with the University of Denver, Colorado Libraries for Early Literacy, the High Plains Library District, the Aurora Public Library, the Pikes Peak Library District, the Lake County Public Library, Reach Out and Read Colorado, Colorado Bright Beginnings, Colorado Humanities’ Motheread/Fatheread, and Nurse-Parent Partnership Colorado, to plan for Project SPELL: Supporting Parents in Early Literacy through Libraries.
The planning team reviewed existing studies and programs and conducted new research to create a blueprint of promising practices for libraries and other agencies to deliver early literacy information and resources to low-income families with young children. This blueprint continues to be shared broadly and will suggest library policies, services, community partners, and practices that can make the library more accessible and usable for this target audience. The blueprint is available online at http://spellproject.weebly.com/uploads/1/5/3/3/15331602/spell_blueprint_final.pdf.
In 2014, the State Library received a second grant from IMLS for $247,619 to build upon its original SPELL findings examining how libraries and other early childhood service agencies can empower parents to embed early literacy activities in daily life. The project team will develop and test prototypes to see if Supporting Parents in Early Literacy through Libraries (SPELL) programming recommendations are more feasible for certain libraries or in communities with particular demographics, or if SPELL programs are useful across a range of different libraries and communities. Library staff and partners will receive intensive training and mentoring, and 500 children of low-income parents from birth through age three will directly benefit from eight yearlong prototypes. In addition, libraries, partner representatives, and attendees will complete surveys and pre- and post-program questionnaires to inform understanding about knowledge and practices. Respondents will also provide information about changes in confidence and activities and the overall effectiveness of collaboration will be evaluated as well.
“We are so pleased that the Colorado State Library has received a National Leadership Grant for Project SPELL,” said Eugene Hainer, Assistant Commissioner of the Colorado Department of Education. “The findings from the project will go far to help libraries and other organizations focused on early education in Colorado and across the nation to reach parents with the crucial message of early literacy.”
Research has shown that low-income students often arrive at kindergarten without the academic and social skills they need to succeed. Early learning programs can ensure all children are ready to start school and learn to read. Despite major public and private investments over the past decades, more than 80% 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.
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