If you think the El Dorado Hills Library has awesome children’s programs you aren’t biased. Recognized as a leader in pre-literacy programs for 0 to 5-year-olds in California, the El Dorado County Library system recently received a $90,000 grant to share its best practices statewide.
El Dorado County Director of Library Services Jeanne Amos and El Dorado Hills Branch Manager Carolyn Brooks sat down with Village Life and explained the chronology of events leading up to the grant. In 2006 the State Library led an early brain development workshop and both said they were hooked.
“I was first a children’s librarian and Carolyn was a teacher,” said Amos. “Once a child’s advocate, always a child’s advocate.”
“Did you know 90 percent of a child’s brain is developed by the age of 3?” asked Brooks. “And 70 percent is developed by 1?”
The best way to foster this development is through hands-on, imaginative play, both Amos and Brooks said repeatedly.
“Kids just think they’re playing, but it’s so good for them in so many ways,” Brooks explained.
County library officials found an early partner in First 5 El Dorado, whose primary mandate is to ensure that young children “will enter kindergarten ready for school, academically, socially, and physically.” With $1,200 from First 5, the libraries launched their initial children’s program, which has since become a robust program offering near daily activities from traditional storytime and music to art and puppet theater.
“We are where the children are. It just makes sense we work together,” said Brooks. “Every county should pair up with their First 5.”
In 2010 “43,000 young children, their parents and caregivers participated successfully in the pre-literacy-based programs with El Dorado County libraries and their collaborative partners,” said Brooks.
In 2012 the State Library took notice and approached Amos and Brooks about mentoring rural Tehama County’s library system so its leaders could create similar enrichment programs. The one-year, $90,000 grant expands on this notion, but the state would like to share El Dorado County’s successes with many others. Brooks said homeschooling parents, in-home or large preschools, and other caregivers of small children would benefit as well.
A chunk of the grant will go toward giving the current county bookmobile a makeover. The van will get a colorful vinyl wrap and be renamed Playmobile. Brooks said it would be packed with sand tables, problem-solving games and other fun activities often found at the county’s libraries.
“We’re taking our programs out on the road,” she explained. “We’re going to hire a librarian, a driver and an assistant by September and the van will be out at least five days a week.”
Currently the bookmobile operates on donations only and visits rural areas in El Dorado County once a week. They are looking for volunteers to help and they welcome visit requests.
“The playmobile will visit home daycares, schools, farmers’ markets, apartment complexes and especially rural areas with limited resources,” said Brooks.
Library officials will also mentor others via Pinterest and You Tube. Brooks has created an early learning Pinterest site (pinterest.com/ELF2Libraries) that has a range of boards by ages and activities. Singer and guitarist Francie Dillon has her own board on the page with a series of musical You Tube videos perfect for parents or caregivers who may want to brush up on children’s song tunes or lyrics.
Though the grant was intended for other California libraries and its residents, Brooks said its influence is far-reaching.
“People from all over the world are finding our Pinterest site,” she said.
“It is quite an honor to be considered leaders in the state,” said Brooks and Amos. “Our goal is to help families and caregivers be the very best first teachers for their children.”