Museums and libraries are community assets that can provide key components to early childhood education and help build reading skills in young children, particularly those from poor homes.
Pittsburgh is one of 10 cities nationally that is doing a model job at using those assets to serve young children and their families, according to a report released today from the Institute of Museum and Library Services and the Campaign for Grade-level Reading. The cities were chosen by a task force that included early childhood researchers and practitioners and federal and local officials.
The report, called "Growing Young Minds: How Museums and Libraries Create Lifelong Learners," talks about how libraries and museums offer programs, including summer reading, art classes, family workshops, exposure to animal habitats and opportunities to use computers, that enhance students home and school educational opportunities.
It noted that families with incomes under $50,000 indicated libraries were an important educational tool for their families and that more services would be welcome.
"We found that libraries and museums are a critical resource that many of us had underestimated," said Ralph Smith, managing director for the Campaign for Grade-Level Reading, whose goal is to have all students become proficient readers by third grade.
Pittsburgh is highlighted in the report for the collaboration between museums and libraries and early education groups that is often spearheaded by the Kids+Creativity Network, a consortium of more than 100 organizations that serve young children and their families, which started in 2007.
Among the groups brought together by the network were the Children's Museum of Pittsburgh and the Technology Entertainment Center at Carnegie Mellon University, which have worked together to create the MAKESHOP area at the children's museum. The MAKESHOP, highlighted in the report, is an area where students can use traditional and high-tech materials to build things from their imaginations. It holds such items as sewing machines, soldering irons, nails, wood, 3-D printers and video equipment.
It has been so successful in stimulating learning and activity among young children that the Institute of Museum and Library Services awarded the museum its national medal in 2009 and a $449,296 grant in 2012 to perform a study with the University of Pittsburgh to find out "what kind of learning is actually happening," said Jane Werner, the children's museum's executive director.
The children's museum also was lauded for housing two Pittsburgh Public Schools Head Start classrooms and for helping to improve the North Side neighborhood through its "Charm Bracelet" program that brought together more than 100 organizations that raised about $2 million to make improvements to the neighborhood.
The report also noted the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh's "My Story Maker" program that allows children to compose stories by placing characters and objects on a storyboard template and sharing their stories through digital publication.
Mary Niederberger: firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-1414.