Libraries are pillars in our community that serve the public good as places where we can see knowledge and connection. Libraries play a huge role in community literacy. They help all of us learn and grow. They work for the public good.

We are excited that our local libraries are joining the community in the Building Strong Brains work as key community partners and experts. Several library staff members have joined in the work of our Building Strong Brains Action Teams. They are becoming part of this early childhood systems change work in our community.

National Library Week

This is National Library Week (April 7-13) and we wanted to thank all the librarians in our community for the work they do to improve literacy for all of us. We recently surveyed local libraries about how they’re helping children and their families get ready for kindergarten. Most libraries are offering story times and a variety of other activities. We encourage you to visit your local library to learn more about their programs and opportunities. Here’s what we learned from the survey:

Goshen Public Library

The library is reaching out to parents of young children and promoting five key practices for early literacy:
Talk!   |   Sing!   |   Read!   |   Write!   |   Play!The Give Me Five Literacy Campaign has a full range of resources to spread the word, including a letter, talking points, and other ways the library and others can share and learn about these five key practices.

Give Me 5

Goshen Public Library also offers a regular series of social and literacy programs for children and families, including:

Baby & Me Lapsit – A pre-literacy storytime with songs, rhymes, and play that introduce little ones to new words, listening and motor skills, and socialization.

Little Wonders – A storytime where 2- to 4-year-olds talk, read, write, sing, and play their way into learning.

Go Kits – Backpacks containing five stories in English, Spanish, or both, as well as a craft activity to do at home.

LOTE4Kids – An online resource that offers a collection of digital books for kids in 65+ languages, with English translations.

Elkhart Public Library downtown

The main branch has programs, including:
1,000 Books Before Kindergarten – A reading challenge to encourage caregivers to read 1,000 books with their children before they start kindergarten. Parents get a growth chart to track their progress, as well as free stickers and books to mark accomplishments.Storytimes – Each library location has at least one storytime a week. Storytimes are great opportunities for kids not yet in school to experience stories, songs, and other activities with other children their age. For more information, visit Assessments – Libraries can help parents with a quick 20-minute assessment with a reading tutor to measure a child’s readiness, and library staff can give guidance on what to work on if they are not quite ready yet. To learn more, visit Readers – Growing Readers is a tutoring program to support young readers who need additional support for learning and growing with reading. Additionally, the program supports preschoolers who need an extra boost with getting ready for kindergarten. Weekly 30-minute sessions with a reading tutor will build your child’s literacy skills to get them on the right track for learning to read. and Learn for Kindergarten (TALK) – This texting service sends parents messages twice a week with early literacy tips and ideas to do at home. The ideas are targeted to each child’s specific age and ability.Free Books from the Book Bus – The Book Bus is giving away free books to kids of all ages at numerous community events and locations. In 2023 EPL gave away nearly 13,000 children’s books for kids to build their home libraries.

Elkhart Public Library has books on a huge array of topics and can even help families navigate challenges such as help with health insurance. “The library is working on providing more bilingual resources and making it easier for people to access resources,” said Allison McClean, head of Young People’s Services at the downtown location.

Wakarusa Public Library

The library often has a waitlist for its story hours. Children’s Librarian Kristin Sherk at the library said, “We offer an eight-week Fall and Winter Story Hour session called ‘Beginning Story Hour.’ This is a 30-minute interactive time of songs, stories, and play for children 18-36 months assisted by their caregiver.  Beginning Story Hour is held on Wednesday mornings at 10:15.”

The library also offers a 10-week preschool story hour session that is 45 minutes of early literacy activities, songs, and stories, as well as a brief playtime.  These sessions are held on Monday and Tuesday mornings at 10:15. Registration is required for all story hours.

The library encourages families to sign up for 1,000 Books Before Kindergarten and to begin a reading routine with their little ones.

“Moms are looking for a clean, safe place for their children to play and interact with others,” Kristin wrote, so the library becomes a place for play dates.

Middlebury Public Library

Middlebury Public Library offered nearly 200 programs in 2022 for community youth. It offers art nights, story times, and helps with STEM education and homeschooling.

The library would like to have a makerspace for children and others to make their creative ideas become realities.

Brit Taylor, youth services librarian, echoed other librarians we surveyed in saying that she and her coworkers try to find enough time to market what they offer and be available at the hours people want to use the library.