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Celebrating National Library Week

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

Kindergarten 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

Growing 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.

Text 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.


Implementing community supports for young children and families in Elkhart County

Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library

Crossroads United Way, Elkhart County’s Imagination Library affiliate, is leading the continued outreach and enrollment of young children in Elkhart County. Elkhart County has already enrolled 1,445 children to receive a free book every month. 

Children from birth to 5 years old can be signed up to receive a free book every month until their fifth birthday. Visit for more details and to sign up.

“Where’s Dolly?” Imagination Tour

Our very own cut-out of Ms. Dolly will be visiting different locations to help encourage enrollment and of course providing a fun chance for a photo/selfie! Miss Dolly comes with extra enrollment information, display books, and United Way resources.

Community partners, government organizations, businesses, and event organizers can also schedule a “tour” stop on the “Where’s Dolly?” Imagination Tour by attending one of the kick-offs or contacting Jill Yoder at or (574) 295-1650.

Bright By Text

Crossroads United Way is leading the launch and implementation of Bright by Text, a nationwide texting platform supporting parents and caregivers of children prenatal to age eight in their daily interactions. Parents receive free tips, information, games, and resources to support nurturing caregiver-child relationships, strengthening families, promoting healthy child development, and improving school readiness.

Triple P For Baby

Horizon Education Alliance is leading the launch and implementation of Triple P for Baby, a program focused on supporting parents with the transition to parenthood and the first year of their baby’s life.  The program will only be available in English to start, but stay tuned for a Spanish-language version. Sign up online for Triple P For Baby, which will launch this spring! You can sign up to join the waitlist for the new online parent support program just for parents of babies (up to 18 months) and parents-to-be.


Parent Cafes

Child And Parent Services hosts a parent cafe every month that offers fun activities for children, continuing education, giveaways, and the chance to interact with other parents and caregivers.

The upcoming events are: 

April 10, 2024, 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Theme: Makin’ some April magic: Bit by Bit Blossom by Blossom, April is the time that Spring starts Poppin’  

May 17, 2024, 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Theme: Nurturing the Seeds to Grow Strong Families  

June 11, 2024, 5 to 7:30 p.m.
Theme: Feeling Safe in an Unsafe World  

July 16, 2024, 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Theme: Making lemonade when you only have lemons

To RSVP, go to, or call (574) 295.2277, ext 252, or email

Inspiring and educating communities

Libraries are one of the bedrocks of American life and experience. They are community treasures that play huge roles in inspiring and educating our communities. Thank you to our Elkhart County libraries for the amazing and important work they do in Elkhart County!

Representatives from Elkhart County libraries are actively engaged in the Building Strong Brains work, bringing important information about a bedrock community support for young children and families into the collective work and discussion. A number of library staff members are joining our Action Teams.

We are gathering information about the ways our local libraries are helping children and their families grow and thrive before they reach kindergarten. We’ll share that soon and you’ll read more about it in a future newsletter.

Convening and connecting across the network

Building Strong Brains continues to lead, facilitate, and support convenings across the network with a focus on the three focus areas of Maternal and Child Health, Quality Child Care and Early Learning Environments, and Community Supports for Children and Families. Community partners have come together bringing expertise, lived experience, and innovative problem-solving. Identification of complex challenges, actionable opportunities, and innovative problem-solving continue to progress the work.
  • Action Teams continue to meet monthly to explore, research, plan, and implement ideas to strengthen the early childhood system in Elkhart County. Partners have the opportunity to learn about important programming already in place and consider the gaps. Collectively solutions are leading to actionable steps.
  • Support Teams continue to meet monthly to research, plan, and implement communications and data strategies to support and inform the work of the collective coalition.
  • The Health System Alignment Team has met twice with a meeting scheduled for this month to continue the dialogue and innovative thinking across the collective health system for reducing barriers and improving maternal and infant health in Elkhart County.
  • The Leadership Table launched in February with content, context, and strategy experts who will provide an additional opportunity for innovative ideas and support the important work of the system-focused work.
  • The Steering Team continues to meet monthly to support the coalition through reducing barriers and accelerating the action work.

Evolving Building Strong Brains Structure

Building Strong Brains continues to evolve with the needs of the collective work of the coalition and the identified opportunities to leverage and align resources, dialogue, and efforts. As a result of this necessary evolving structure, Building Strong Brains now includes a Leadership Table, Support Teams in the areas of Data and Communications, and a Health System Alignment Team. The structure will continue to evolve with the ongoing development, implementation, and sustainability of the coalition.

Convening cross-sector action teams

Building Strong Brains includes three action teams focused on the pillars of work that comprehensively span the full early childhood system. They are: Maternal and Child Health; Quality Child Care and Early Learning Environments; and Community and Family Supports. On October 10, the three action teams convened at Crossroads United Way to engage in intentional discussion, sharing, and action planning. A total of 40 community members from 24 organizations joined in the networking and innovative thinking. The teams are meeting regularly to study the system. They are working to identify gaps, generate action strategies, and mobilize programmatic and project-based action work.

Building Strong Brains Action Team

Inspiring a love of reading

Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library is live and operational in Elkhart County. Crossroads United Way is the official affiliate in Elkhart County, joining other United Ways already active as affiliates in the state of Indiana.

Children 0-5 years old can be signed up to receive a free book every month until their fifth birthday. Visit for more details and to sign up.

Implementing the Leadership Table

The Leadership Table is a part of the evolving governance structure of Building Strong Brains. Composed of context experts, content experts, community connectors, and strategists from Elkhart County, the Leadership Table will provide strategic advice that is innovative, creative, and takes into consideration the assets and challenges of our community. The Leadership Table will support and create a sense of accountability to the community for improved outcomes. The group will convene for its first meeting in January.

Networking and learning together with the Early Childhood Leadership Roundtable

Early childhood partners are collaborating to offer early childhood leaders in Elkhart County professional development and networking opportunities. September’s event included the presentation, What’s in your backpack? and a book giveaway with local author, Darlene Radcliff, an Infant and Early Childhood Mental Health Consultant and Trauma Informed Care Advocate with The SOURCE. Sponsors of the event were Crossroads United Way, Community Foundation of Elkhart County, The SOURCE, and Geminus. Thank you to Crossroads United Way for providing copies of Our Place in the Forest. A read-aloud version of the book can be found at Our Place in the Forest. November’s event included a presentation on business support for Elkhart County’s early childhood leaders. Sponsors of that event were Crossroads United Way, the Community Foundation of Elkhart County, Geminus, and SPARK Learning Labs.

Working collaboratively

Dr. Carla Gull from Loose Parts Play led a workshop focused on nature play for early child care leaders who gathered in April for an event. The event was collaboratively hosted by the Community Foundation of Elkhart County, Crossroads United Way, and Geminus.

Crossroads United Way, one of the coalition Executive Sponsors for BSB, is rolling out Bright By Text, a national texting platform that offers parent resources. This will be a valuable resource for our community. The Building Strong Brains Community and Family Supports action team worked collaboratively with Crossroads United Way to research the platform for Elkhart County. Look for more information soon on how to sign up for this great service.


We invite you to join us in this work

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