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County Library Rolls Out More Education Programs Around LA — In Some Cases, Literally

Expanded education programs are coming to several branches of the L.A. County Library, from Compton to Lancaster.

Vans will bring storytime, robotics and 3D printing out of the library and into the community. Another program connects young learners to peer tutors.

The county is spending $1.43 million dollars in federal coronavirus relief money to implement or expand four programs based at a dozen L.A. County libraries.

Serving High Need Communities

“This project includes several target communities, including school-aged youth and neighborhoods that have been historically divested or under resourced,” said L.A. County Library Director Skye Patrick during an L.A. County Board of Supervisors July meeting.

The county categorizes communities as “high need” based on factors like income and rates of unemployment and overcrowded housing.

South Gate’s Leland R. Weaver Library is one of the libraries that will share the COVID-19 relief funding.

“A lot of things have changed for a lot of people in the past years,” said Weaver Children’s Librarian Stephanie Lien. “I just hope that we can still show people that the library is a community resource.”

Jasmin Salazar brought her 2-year-old Matthew to storytime here for the first time Wednesday. She said they spent much of the pandemic cooped up at home.

“It’s kind of scary, but I mean, we have to start, you know, coming out of the cave,” Salazar said. “I want him to… get ready for school and honestly… just be used to other people than just me.”

Matthew started on his socially distanced mat, but was soon jumping and dancing with the five other kids as children’s librarian Stephanie Lien read aloud and led them in song.

“Sometimes it doesn’t seem like they’re learning, but for that age, it’s like everything is,” Lien said. “They’re absorbing it all using their whole bodies, their brains and everything.”

Ivanna Hernandez pages through the book ¡Adiós, tristeza!

For mom Dina Morales, who came with her 4-year-old and 20-month-old daughters, storytime is also a chance to practice her own English.

“With the songs, with the books, I’m also learning and it helps my daughters,” Morales said.

Lien said families in the community often request homework help and resources to teach reading, but they are limited by time and money. The L.A. County Library system has long operated with a structural budget deficit. 

“It is exciting to know we have a little extra funding,” Lien said. “Maybe some of the programs that may have started small can maybe get bigger, or we can roll out new programs that can better sort of fit the needs of the community.”

Storytime On Wheels

One of the library programs targeted for expansion is the Reading Machine— a sort of library on wheels.

Three brightly colored vans shuttle librarians, books and other materials to preschools and home-based child care centers for storytimes like the ones you’d find at the library.

L.A. County Library Youth Services Administrator Heather Firchow said there’s also training for the providers “so they can better support the children …and feel more comfortable talking about early literacy.”

Providers can apply to participate in the program online.

The children also go home with handouts that outline how their parents and caregivers can start new conversations around books.

“It’s a habit you form,” Firchow said.“If you continue to have these interactions with your child, around books, and learning and reading, that’s just going to set them up for success when they enter school.”

Where The L.A. County Library Is Expanding Education Programs

What questions do you have about early childhood education and development? What do you want to know about kids ages 0-5 and those who care for them in Southern California?

Decades of research indicates early childhood education significantly boosts children’s readiness to learn. Mariana Dale wants families, caregivers and educators to have the information they need to help children 0-5 grow and thrive by identifying what’s working and what’s not in California’s early childhood system.


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