Report emphasizes role libraries, museums play in early learning

June 20, 2013

Museums and libraries play key roles in fostering early literacy and development and should be used more intentionally in the education of children, according to a report released on Thursday by the Institute of Museum and Library Services.

The report, the result of a partnership with the institute, a federal agency, and the Campaign for Grade-Level Reading, which aims to have all children reading proficiently by the end of third grade, calls on parents, policymakers and community members to help kids get a head start in reading before they reach school-age.

At an event at the Anacostia Library on Thursday morning, federal and district officials praised the report.

“I always encourage my kids to go beyond the walls of the classroom,” said Deb Delisle, a former teacher and the current assistant secretary for elementary and secondary education at the Department of Education. “Learning doesn’t just take place within these four walls.”

This isn’t news to library and museum officials, though. They have been trying to engage children in early literacy for years, Institute of Museum and Library Services director Susan Hildreth said, while the policymakers played catch-up.

The report, “Growing Young Minds: How Museums and Libraries Create Lifelong Learners,” underscores the work library and museum officials are already doing.

At the National Children’s Museum in National Harbor, there’s an area set aside for children three years old and younger, where they can read stories, watch plays and participate in art activities, said Wendy Blackwell, the museum’s vice president of visitor experience.

The D.C. Public Library system offers programs for kids to encourage a love of learning, through print and online books, storytime and other activities, and is also trying to reach young patrons through digital platforms.

“My grandson learned to call me on the iPhone before he could read,” said Debra Shumate, DCPL’s assistant director of public services.

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