Vermont Early Literacy Initiative

In 2015 the Vermont Department of Libraries received a National Leadership Grant for Libraries from the Institute of Museum and Library Services to inaugurate the VELI-STEM project in partnership with VCB and the Montshire Museum of Science. Over the past three years we worked with 25 Vermont public libraries to provide STEM programming and resources to children ages 3-7, their parents, child-care providers and key community stakeholders.

Here is the final VELI-STEM evaluation report of the project, compiled by Dr. Kelly Myles.

The VELI-STEM grant provided in-depth professional development for three years. Results of the training will be used to create a replicable model for libraries across the country, allowing them to deliver effective and sustainable STEM programming and resources through a STEM Clearinghouse of Resources developed throughout the project.

The Vermont Early Literacy Initiative was developed in 2010 by the Vermont Center for the Book and the Vermont Department of Libraries (DOL). This statewide early literacy initiative has allowed over 50 Vermont public libraries to bring early literacy experiences to babies and toddlers, parents and child-care providers. In the first year, 2010-2011, thirty Vermont public libraries participated, and in the second year we added twenty-three more.  The training, based on research on how babies and toddlers learn, improves story times and helps the librarians introduce concepts of early literacy to parents and caregivers.

In the second phase of programming librarians received training, books and hands-on materials through Ready for School, VELI’s preschool math and literacy program.

In addition to information about how preschoolers learn about literacy and math, the librarians learned the basics of the Common Core State Standards so that they could focus on the skills that preschoolers will need once they get to kindergarten. Pat Fitzsimmons, the Common Core Coordinator for the Vermont Department of Education, delivered the keynote speech. She has taught at the preschool and kindergarten levels as well as working for the Dept. of Ed., so she was the perfect person to pull it all together.

VCB executive director Sally Anderson taught the majority of the workshop using the VCB book How Many Ways Can You Make Five: A Parent’s Guide to Exploring Math with Children’s Books  (Gryphon House, 2012) and her expertise from VCB’s multiyear $1.5 million National Science Foundation-funded project, “What’s the BIG Idea?”

Vermont Early Learning Initiative
Librarians at the Ready for School training learned about sorting using attributes

Armed with this new knowledge and training, these librarians conducted story hours, parent programs and training for child-care providers on early language and math literacy for preschoolers. To facilitate the programming, they received sets of books, hands-on math materials (such as linking cubes and magnetic numbers); sets of books and materials for parents for each of three programs, and sets of books and materials for child-care providers for their training.

VELI librarians have also been trained in the importance of healthy social-emotional development in young children (we call it the More Than Feelings program). Librarians received training resources, books and hands-on learning materials for in-library programming (story hours, family programs, trainings for child-care providers). Funding for the training, books and materials were provided in part by the A.D. Henderson Foundation and the VT Department of Libraries.

In 2015-2017, all VELI libraries were invited to participate in FFN programming, targeting Family, Friends and Neighbors who care for children ages 0-7. Funding for books, hands-on materials and other resources was provided in part by the Vermont Birth to Five Project.

Funding for VELI has been provided by the Winnie Belle Learned Fund of the Vermont Public Library Foundation through the generosity of Dr. Burnett Rawson, the Henderson Foundation, the Turrell Fund, Vermont Center for the Book and the State of Vermont.