While there were many exciting developments at the recent ALA Annual Conference, some of which have already been highlighted by other AASL Bloggers, I want to call attention to the release of a new report, Growing Young Minds: How Museums and Libraries Create Lifelong Learners, from the Campaign for Grade Level Reading and the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) which calls upon policy makers, practitioners, and parents to make full use of the nation’s network of museums and libraries, and the skills and talents of those who work in them, to close knowledge and opportunity gaps and give all children a strong start in learning. As we are all too aware, and as the project team from IMLS has eloquently observed:
“There is a crisis in early learning in the United States. Eighty percent of low income children are NOT reading on grade-level by third grade. Too many children are not ready for school and the sad fact is when they start behind they stay behind. From the White House to the state house and in board rooms and living rooms across the U.S. there is growing demand that we do a better job of preparing our children for school and supporting their learning in the early years. And museums and libraries are part of the solution. This joint report is the first ever to examine museums and libraries as an early learning community resource. The report:
• Frames the opportunity that makes libraries and museums a timely and valuable asset to early learning efforts,
• Identifies 10 key ways these trusted community institutions support young children’s learning,
• Recommends actions that policymakers, schools, funders, parents, museum and library professionals can take to weave libraries and museums into communities’ early learning solutions.
• Showcases examples of museums and libraries from across the country who are Success Spotlights.
The IMLS project team also notes that “With a presence in nearly every American community, museums and libraries are powerful BUT OVERLOOKED resources to expand early learning opportunities for all children but especially for our most vulnerable. BUT THIS IS CHANGING – the role of libraries and museums in early learning has been recognized at the highest levels of government. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan has lent his support to this report saying.
“We have to do everything we can to give all our children opportunities to get off to a strong start, and community institutions play a critical role. For parents and families, libraries and museums are a go-to resource that supports them as their child’s first teacher,” said Arne Duncan, U.S. Secretary of Education. “Public and school libraries as well as all kinds of museums, science centers and zoos are trusted, welcoming places where children can make discoveries, deepen interests, and connect their natural curiosity to the wider world — developing the skills they need for a lifetime of learning.”
As you may know, IMLS is an independent agency of the United States government, having the mission to inspire libraries and museums to advance innovation, lifelong learning, and cultural and civic engagement and provide leadership through research, policy development, and grant making. It is the main source of federal support for libraries and museums within the U.S. Yet, IMLS does not have a direct role or mandate regarding school libraries; nevertheless, over the years, IMLS-funded programs have benefited schools and have certainly benefited students. And it is especially commendable that the new report goes the distance in ensuring that the role of school library programs and school librarians is emphasized.
Growing Young Minds is a must read for all school librarians as well as a must share with policy makers at every level – local, state and federal – regarding the unique and connected roles of museums and libraries in providing learning opportunities. I was inspired by the exemplars of IMLS-funded programming, peppered throughout the report, which provide models that can and must be replicated so that kids can experience the results of powerful partnerships developed within our communities for their benefit.
We can certainly applaud the Campaign for Grade Level Reading and IMLS, for the provision of this outstanding publication and be appreciative of the fact that they reached out to the school library community to inform their work by interviewing colleagues such as Barbara Stripling, a former AASL President and new ALA President, and Julie Walker, the Executive Director of AASL. I encourage everyone to download a copy and get busy sharing its contents with policy makers about the role of libraries in the early learning landscape of your community.
Get the report at http://www.imls.gov/earlylearning