INWOOD — A pilot bilingual program hosted by the Inwood Library is not only bridging the language gap among pre-kindergarten children in the community but also changing the way city libraries collaborate with schools and families, officials said.
The Bilingual Family Literacy Breakfast Program, launched in October, is the first of its kind to hold monthly meetings with parents at a local school, P.S. 98, to discuss best learning practices for parents to use with their children at home.
The program also supplements pre-K classrooms and teachers with resources like books, videos and other printed materials, according to children's librarian Rachel Skinner O'Neil.
“What we try to do is to give [parents] easily digested tips on what to be doing at home to support the pre-K work that’s going on in the schools,” she said, noting she has usually worked with anywhere from 25 to 50 parents from P.S. 98 during the workshops.
Danita Nichols, branch manager at the Inwood Library, said the program is the first to collaborate with local schools and families in such an “intensive way” using both English and Spanish.
Nichols said the work is one of the few that focuses on “going back to the school so many times to work with teachers, and having the follow-up with storytime in classrooms.”
Nichols, who said most of the families in the program are Spanish-speaking, also wants to expand the breakfasts to other schools in the neighborhood. The plan is also slated to expand to other libraries in the coming months, according to Kristen Rocha, manager of early childhood education for the New York Public Library.
The program will next expand to the Washington Heights branch and work with students from P.S. 4, she said.
Rocha said programs like this — as well as other perks the library has added, including additional storytime and extended library hours — were made possible by the $43 million the city's three library systems received from the City Council last year. The city's library system is hoping that will increase to $65 million this year. The last time the libraries received a budget increase prior to last year was in 2008, she noted.
In addition to the bilingual literacy breakfasts, the Inwood branch hosts a storytime in both French and English for babies and toddlers every other Saturday morning, and a Spanish-English storytime on Tuesday afternoons for a wide range of ages, Nichols said.
The branch is also working with a Spanish-speaking librarian to add a Saturday storytime for babies and toddlers in the morning, when the French program doesn’t meet.
“The real goal is for parents to know the library is there as a resource,” Nichols said.
The library system launched the #InvestInLibraries campaign Wednesday morning to encourage people to write to their elected officials and ask them to support city libraries.