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Advocates of Pre-K Pushing Obama: “Go To The Library”

PHOTO: With renewed emphasis on early childhood development in Albany and Washington, DC, advocates are hoping more attention is paid to the roll public libraries can play. Photo courtesy MCPL
PHOTO: With renewed emphasis on early childhood development in Albany and Washington, DC, advocates are hoping more attention is paid to the roll public libraries can play. Photo courtesy MCPL
March 11, 2013

PORTLAND, Maine - President Obama highlighted support for early learning in his State of the Union address. He should go to the library, according to advocates for using public libraries as key parts of the learning process for toddlers to four-year-olds. Many libraries these days are more than musty book stacks and card catalogs and maybe an occasional story-time session. They're becoming fun and inexpensive places for children and parents to write the opening chapters in a lifetime of learning.

Sandy Feinberg runs a national program called Family Place Libraries that teaches librarians how to adapt to the needs of pre-kindergarten kids.

"A public space, well stocked with materials, from nine to nine every day, and the weekends, where parents can go - or caregivers - with their young kids," Feinberg called the local library. "It's a wonderful idea waiting to happen, isn't it?"

A recent nationwide survey by the Pew Research Center found that 82 percent of those polled "strongly support libraries offering free early literacy programs to help young children prepare for school."

Sandy Feinberg's group has overseen the creation of Family Place Libraries at 400 sites in 24 states. She's pleased at the attention paid to pre-K issues by President Obama, but wouldn't mind some public support - and funding - for libraries.

"The government can only think, 'Well, we'll put money into schools, therefore we can do universal pre-K.' But it's really at the young level that the parent can be so much more empowered," she declared. "So, libraries, I think, we're just a silent kind of institution so many times."

Not THAT silent, she says. It would be a lost cause for toddlers using library learning areas to be "shushed" by librarians.

Mark Scheerer, Public News Service - ME