In an ongoing effort to assist families in the Brooklyn area, Flagstone Family Center recently held a gathering to encourage families to participate in a new reading program. The DHS Family Shelter Library Pilot Project helps promote literacy through access to age-appropriate books by way of newly built libraries in each shelter, shelving hundreds of books that families can directly access. Apart from providing quality reading material, the program also aims to teach parents how to keep their kids engaged with reading through dynamic story telling sessions.
“Brooklyn Public Library is proud to serve the diverse needs of a diverse borough—and when families cannot reach us, we will bring our collections and programs to them,” said Nick Higgins, Director of Outreach Services for Brooklyn Public Library. “By partnering with agencies like DHS, we are able to serve the community beyond our 60 branches, ensuring that families from every walk of life can access our free, life-transforming resources.”
DHS and a host of other public agencies created this exciting initiative through a partnership with Scholastic, Inc. Scholastic has long been recognized as a leader in the promotion of child literacy but through this particular initiative, they have helped to create 30 libraries in Families with Children shelters throughout the city. They also donated over 3,000 books to facilitate the creation of the libraries, with New York Public Libraries providing programming in these shelter-based reading rooms.
To celebrate the beginning of this incredible program, the launch event featured a “Story Play” where families could participate in a read along by Brooklyn Public Library Outreach Associate, Odette Larroche-Garcia, and Clifford the Big Red Dog®. The families also enjoyed snack time, a free-play time, and a book giveaway that helped establish even more excitement about the new offerings.
“The Department of Homeless Services is sincerely thankful for Scholastic’s additional book donation to expand our Family Shelter library Pilot by 10 new libraries, growing from 20 shelters to 30 shelters since September 2015” said DHS First Deputy Commissioner, Lorraine Stephens. “Our goal is to continue to foster a strong culture of literacy for our families by providing them a greater quantity and variety of books and linkages to the local libraries.”
The literacy push also comes at a great time when science and research are consistently encouraging parents to sit down and read to their children. According to recent pediatric research, reading studies provide evidence that the practice activates the parts of preschoolers’ brains that help with mental imagery and understanding narrative — both of which are key for the development of language and literacy. The studies were completed with MRI’s that measured the child’s brain activity while they were listening to a woman reading a story. Researchers explained that parents who spent more time reading to their children were unknowingly creating more nurturing relationships and benefiting the child’s cognitive, language or social-emotional development.
Some of the shelters parents admitted that they often turned to television or other activities when they wanted to keep their kids busy. Through the workshop by the Pilot program, they found new ways to interact with their kids on a more intimate level. Although many of these underprivileged families don’t have the means to sustain a family library, with new resources like the Library Pilot Project, there are finding options to supplement their child’s development. In the next year,