IMLS Says Libraries Key to Early Learning

The Institute of Museum and Library Services and the Campaign for Grade-Level Reading today unveiled a new report on the role of museums and libraries in early learning, and issued a call to action for policymakers, schools, funders, and parents to include these institutions in comprehensive early learning strategies.
The Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) and the Campaign for Grade-Level Reading today unveiled a new report on the role of museums and libraries in early learning [PDF], and issued a call to action for policymakers, schools, funders, and parents to include these institutions in comprehensive early learning strategies. Growing Young Minds: How Museums and Libraries Create Lifelong Learners cites dozens of examples and 10 case studies, and highlights 10 key ways libraries and museums support children’s early education and summer learning. Deb Delisle, Assistant Secretary for Elementary and Secondary Education, U.S. Department of Education, and Richard Gonzales, Senior Advisor for Early Childhood Development, Department of Health and Human Services, joined Ralph Smith, Managing Director of the Campaign for Grade Level Reading, and Susan H. Hildreth, Director of IMLS, for a joint press event today highlighting the report. “This report issues a call to action: Now is the time for policy makers and practitioners to fully use the capacity of libraries and museums in their early learning efforts,” says Hildreth in her introduction to the report. “Libraries and museums reach millions of children each year. It is exciting to bring that capacity into focus so that libraries and museums can more effectively engage in early learning strategies at the community, state, and national levels.” For IMLS, the report is only the first step in a deeper and expanded commitment to the youngest and most at-risk children in the United States, Hildreth says. She notes, “We will be pursuing special efforts to assure that libraries and museums can reach under-served children and provide opportunities that can make a difference that will last a lifetime.” According to the report, libraries and museums support learning are by increasing high-quality early learning experiences, engaging and supporting families as their child’s first teachers, supporting development of executive function and “deeper learning” through literacy and STEM-based experiences, creating seamless links across early learning and the early grades, positioning children for meeting expectations of the Common Core State Standards, addressing the summer slide, linking new digital technologies to learning, improving family health and nutrition, leveraging community partnerships, and adding capacity to early learning networks. The report also outlined areas and questions that deserve further impact study, and specific recommendations for improving early learning outcomes and increasing school readiness through federal, state, and community efforts. Federal policy makers, for example, should include museum/library grants in funding priorities, support research to identify best practices for early learning in museums and libraries, and invest in professional development for museum and library staff. Communities, the report recommends, should include museums and libraries in initiatives designed to increase family engagement in school readiness, examine ways to help vulnerable, underserved families access museum and library services, and launch public information campaigns. For districts and schools, the report calls for joint professional development to teachers and museum and library staff, and the establishment of partnerships between schools and local museums and libraries that support building content knowledge. The report also highlights and details current successful programs in New York (the Children’s Museum of Manhattan); Idaho; Texas (Children’s Museum of Houston); Washington; Virginia (Richmond Public Library, Arlington County schools); Pennsylvania (the greater Pittsburgh region); Florida (Miami Science Museum); Massachusetts (Boston Children’s Museum); Maryland (city of Baltimore).

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