Ready 2 Learn
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What if a solid start in school was as easy as using a special library card?
Oregon is piloting an inventive plan to boost school readiness that harnesses the power of the public library. The program’s driving force is the Ready to Learn library card. The card has an extra gear to help parents get their children into school with skills they need to excel. By the time they graduate, the children will have amassed a modest college savings account.
The child earns a few cents every time they check out a book or attend a library-based school readiness activity.
“Parents are their child’s first teachers,” said Pendleton Library Director Kat Davis, “but figuring out the “what, how and when” can be overwhelming. We think that the first steps on the path to success can be as easy, fun and free as getting a library card.”
Parents and educators agree that sharing books and language with babies and toddlers is one of the most effective and rewarding ways to prepare them for kindergarten. Six libraries in Eastern Oregon, with their partners the Intermountain Education Service District (IMESD) and the Oregon College Growth Savings Plan will soon launch the Ready to Learn program on a quest to link these earliest learning experiences with planning for college.
Assisted with Library Services and Technology Act grant funds recently awarded by the Oregon State Library, plus additional support from the Oregon State Treasury and Greater Oregon Behavioral Health, Inc., children from birth through age five will be eligible to receive a special “Ready to Learn” library card from any of the participating libraries.
In most respects, the card will function as a normal library card. However, some supplementary information will be collected on the registration form that will enable a college savings account to be set up in the child's name.
Every month that the child is enrolled in the program, parents will receive a newsletter of fun and easy ideas for developing those early building blocks of learning. Libraries will coordinate the content of their free baby, toddler and preschool programs to model the same tips. Each time the Ready to Learn card is used to check out a book or register for one of these library programs, a small cash amount will be placed in the child's college savings account.
The action of setting up a college savings account that builds with regular library use connects the dots between early literacy and later educational success plus provides an important jump-start to college planning.
Beginning in 2013, all children entering public kindergarten in Oregon will be assessed using the same evaluation process. The Ready to Learn project hopes to demonstrate that this coordinated effort between parents, libraries and educators can help make sure all children have the skills they need to excel.
Libraries participating in this project include Hermiston Public Library, Pendleton Public Library, La Grande Public Library, Baker County Public Library, Enterprise Public Library and Grant County Library.