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SPELL - Supporting Parents in Early Literacy through Libraries


As part of the SPELL Project, the Colorado State Library is currently researching best practices in reaching low-income parents of children birth through three with early literacy awareness and training.

  • Upcoming webinar:
    Lessons from SPELL: Supporting Parents in Early Literacy through Libraries
    December 12, 11:00-12:30 MT

    Do you strive to reach low-income parents of young children with an effective early literacy message? Please join us for this session to learn research-based, effective strategies to reach this important audience using knowledge from existing programs and literature, along with input from parents themselves. Findings from the SPELL project, funded by an IMLS National Leadership Grant, shed important light on the best times, places, and methods for libraries and other organizations that work with families to reach and effectively communicate with low-income parents of children ages 0-3 about early literacy. During the session, you’ll have the opportunity to share your own experiences with working with this audience, as well as give input into the project as it moves forward with a blueprint of recommendations and a larger project to test its findings. The webinar is presented by Dr. Mary Stansbury and Dr. Duan Zhang of the University of Denver, in partnership with the Colorado State Library. There is no registration required for this free online session.
    To join the webinar, go to


The Colorado State Library has received a $41,146 grant to promote early learning among low-income children, 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.

To encourage early learning, the State Library will partner 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 will review existing studies and undertake 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 will 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.

“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 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.

Aligning IMLS grants with the goals of the Campaign for Grade-Level Reading makes it possible for libraries and museums to stand together with the 124 cities, county and towns, including Denver and Longmont, 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. To view all of the 2012 National Leadership Grant recipients, go to


If you have questions about the SPELL project, please contact Beth Crist at

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