President Obama is committed to providing the support that our youngest children need to succeed later in school. The importance of the early years in a child’s life has been well documented. The U.S. Department of Education prioritizes improving the health, social, emotional, and educational outcomes for young children from birth through third grade by enhancing the quality of early learning programs, and increasing access to high-quality early learning programs especially for young children at risk for school failure.
He is not alone. The rallying cry can be heard across the nation, from schools and businesses to foundations and the public sector. The need to invest in young children is clear, as are the benefits of that investment. Here at IMLS we are challenging libraries and museums to take a leading role in their communities’ early learning strategies. We have committed up to $2 million in National Leadership Grants to libraries and museums, working in partnership with other community organizations, to take action in three areas: school readiness, summer reading loss, and chronic school absence.
From the Race to the Top Early Learning Challenge to the Campaign for Grade Level Reading, the urgency of this national priority cannot be understated. We know that libraries and museums are part of the solution and IMLS’s interest in this area is not new. In just the past three fiscal years, IMLS discretionary programs have provided more than $10 million for museum and library services for young children, and we know that the commitment from the state agencies receiving IMLS Grants to States funding is equally robust.
IMLS is working to get libraries and museums “at the table” in the policy dialogue on early learning and there is much work to be done. While there has been a steady drum beat in the media on the importance of early learning, libraries and museums are rarely mentioned. As the federal voice for library and museum service we will turn that around. Recently IMLS staff authored a blog post for the Metro Trends blog, the Urban Institute’s report card and toolkit for researchers, students, journalists, elected officials, and the public on the state of metropolitan economies, documenting the role of libraries in providing reading materials for the most vulnerable young people. This is just one way we are working to leverage the immense public investment that has been made in libraries and museums and shining a light on the future and value of continued support.