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‘Bridging literacy’ to help Quad Cities families get access to multilingual books and resources

Published: May. 10, 2021 at 11:38 AM CDT|Updated: May. 27, 2021 at 10:25 PM CDT
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MOLINE, Ill. (KWQC) - Joining teams, the Moline Public Library and Project Now: Headstart will now be able to help immigrant and non-English speaking families get the same access to books and educations as other families in our area. After receiving a $40,000 grant from The PITCH, the organizations are hoping to help through “Bridging Literacy” in the Quad Cities. Organizers say they hope their first event will be by the end of June.

On average, immigrant families in the Quad Cities have about ten or fewer books in their homes compared to English-speaking families which have over 50 books, according to Misi Birdsall, the Director of Headstart: Project Now. “It’s important we find a way to get to these communities, so they get these books and activities they have to build their literacy skills,” she explains.

If those literacy skills aren’t learned in early childhood, we can see the long-term effects pretty quickly. Christina Conklin, the Children’s Services Coordinator with the Moline Library explains: “it increases over time. If they don’t have those early literacy skills, they’re not ready for kindergarten, then not ready for third grade and that impacts their graduation rates as well. To get that degree for their job, that impacts their future. There’s a big impact there.”

To help combat this, Conklin and Birdsall will create pop-up events throughout Moline neighborhoods, bringing various literacy activities and setting up a space to learn. Conklin will help families learn about the library and figure out how to sign up for a library card. Birdsall says she hopes to give every family at least one book they can take home in their primary language. She’ll then also bring community outreach workers to the events, where they can “sit with parents and work on housing, food, heating, and cooling assistance. So, while the kids are having fun, parents will have handouts they need to make sure the kids are happy, healthy and safe,” says Birdsall.

Library books and supplies will also be available for check out at the mobile pop-ups. Conklin says “a lot of people whether immigrants or they’ve been in Moline their whole life; they don’t know what the library has to offer. And like a store, if you don’t know what it has, you’re not likely to make that effort to find out what’s there. Especially if transportation is difficult.”

There are books in over 20 languages currently available at the Moline Public Library, and that collection is expanding. Being able to identify with characters in the book is crucial, explains Conklin. She says if you don’t, “reading isn’t going to be as much fun. To get kids to read, you need to make it fun. The thing is... books are fun! You can travel wherever.”

It’s crucial parents understand they’re their children’s first teachers, says Conklin. “The first five years of the child’s life- we know those are the most important years,” she adds.

“Bridging Literacy” will allow kids and families of all demographics to sit together and enjoy a book. Adriana Marceleno is now able to sit down with her daughter Karena and read books to her in Spanish and English. Marceleno says reading is important for both kids and adults because “sometimes you come home and want to relax, and a book can help you do that.”

Conklin and Birdsall say this project will help to target the learning loss that can happen over the summer. By ensuring the learning continues through June and July, Conklin says this will be a “big benefit in their next school year” and “you’ll start to see the literacy skills will increase and strengthen” with a goal of over 100 kids in attendance during each pop-up event.

If you would like to donate books or volunteer at the events, you can call Conklin at the Moline Public Library’s Children Services at 309-524-2480. You can also call Birdsall at Project Now: Headstart at 309-792-4555.

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