Volume 26, Number 4, Winter 2004

Washington State Library's "Early Learning Initiative"

by Martha Shinners, Washington State Library

The Early Learning Initiative was designed to help public and tribal library staffs incorporate findings from recent brain research in their programs for children, birth to age five. Over a three-year period the project offered statewide training and core collections to libraries. Eight demonstration projects over a two-year period touched thousands of lives. “I Am Your Child” video collections were produced in English and Spanish and sent to all libraries and each county’s health department. More than 227,000 Read to Your Baby booklets, developed as part of a demonstration grant, were distributed.

One of the most exciting components of the project has been the wonderful collaborations which libraries have established with other community agencies as a result of the demonstration projects.

A Yakima Public Library staff member took fifteen- to twenty-minute story breaks to public waiting rooms. To facilitate this service the library partnered with Yakima Neighborhood Health Services, Yakima Valley Farm Workers Clinic, and WA State DSHS Community Services Offices.

King County Library System offered multilingual storytimes at selected Head Start/ECEAP centers and community libraries. Multilingual storytimes grew from seven story times in 2000 to 183 in Spanish, 14 in Russian, and 25 in Chinese by September 2002.

Whitman County purchased a van to provide mobile early learning programs, information, resources and services. Targeting parents and caregivers of babies and toddlers in the 13 rural libraries (covering 2,159 square miles), it became a public relations tool in the form of a traveling billboard.

For more information on this or other projects contact Martha Shinners, Washington State Library, Division of Secretary of State by phone at (360) 570-5567.