According to the Harvard Family Research Project’s report, Public Libraries: A Vital Space for Family Engagement, “Libraries are poised and ready to be the heart of family engagement in a community.” The Wilmington Public Library’s Week of the Young Child Art Show is a superb example of a public library increasing family engagement. Thank you to Tina Stewart, Library Director, of the Wilmington Public Library, for sharing her experience with this successful family engagement project!
Tell us about your community partnership.
For the last four years, the Wilmington Memorial Library has partnered with preschools and daycares to host an art show to celebrate the Week of the Young Child in April. Youth Services Librarian Barbara Raab coordinates this collaborative event. The children create the artwork that is mounted on black construction paper provided by the library. The library staff collects the artwork for exhibit at the library. The staff at the preschool and daycare centers distribute invitations to an opening reception that the library hosts for the young artists and their families. The reception is the kickoff event prior to the Week of the Young Child when the art work is on display in the library.
How did you connect with your community partners?
A list of preschools and family daycares and contact information was obtained from the Massachusetts Department of Early Education and Care’s online geographically-searchable directory of licensed child care programs. All preschools and family daycares in Wilmington were contacted, either by letter or email, inviting them to participate in the art show. The invitation also included information about services that we provide to preschools and day cares, including on-site storytime visits and the opportunity the check out Early Literacy Fun Packs (kits in a backpack that contain books on a theme, a music CD, toys and games and an activity guide on how to use the materials in the backpack that promote the five early literacy practices of singing, talking, reading, playing and writing).
How did the collaboration benefit your library and your community partners?
The library benefits by having the opportunity to introduce the library and its services to parents of young children. Each year the event draws parents who are not regular library users. The early childhood programs benefit from exposure to the community. It calls attention to the Week of the Young Child, a national recognition of the importance of early learning and early literacy. It also celebrates the teachers and educators who bring early childhood education to young children. In addition, this event promotes “family engagement,” a goal of early childhood education programs.
What impact did the partnership make in your community?
Over 400 children had pieces of art on display in the library. It is a source of pride for the children and their parents to be a part of a community event. In addition, other library patrons enjoy seeing the art exhibit and understand that the library is a community partner.
What advice would you give to a librarian interested to cultivate a similar partnership?
Go for it! It is a relatively easy program to put together. You need to have a space to display lots of children’s artwork, and enough staff and volunteers to hang up the artwork. Make sure to use enough tape or there will be paintings and pictures on the floor when you come to work the next morning!
Interview with Tina Stewart, Library Director, Wilmington Public Library