Community/Library Partnerships Improve Academic Proficiency
How do you change unfavorable educational ratings in a county?
According to the Hendry County Library Cooperative (HCLC), “from the bottom up.”
HCLC embarked on an adventurous, groundbreaking and rewarding venture involving county pre-schools and elementary schools.
But first, the initiative needed to solve a few issues to get off the ground and succeed.
Getting students to the library
HCLC needed to get students to the library. Challenges included
- Long distance between many schools and library branches
- No transportation available
- Walking was the only option
- Students needed help with early literacy skills, but library visits were not a priority for their families
How would this work?
Through the library’s comprehensive network of community funding, partnerships and volunteers.
Ava Barrett, director of HCLC and Clewiston Public Library, worked with two of her branch directors and the directors of several county preschool programs to develop a three-pronged approach:
- Schools in LaBelle that couldn’t get to Barron Library received visits from a mobile computer lab
- Students in Clewiston received free transportation to and from the Clewiston Public Library through Good Wheels bus company
- Students from a school that shared a campus with the Harlem Community Public Library simply walked there
So far, the initiative has had a huge impact.
The ABC Mouse program for pre-k students taught them the parts of a computer mouse, plus how to use it to solve problems in their reading classes by clicking, dragging and dropping objects. Every child who entered the program in all three libraries was successful.
Children also developed literacy skills by using the syndicated Lexia reading program, offered to them for free. 100% of the children learning through Lexia acquired knowledge of basic computer skills, while 68% experienced significant gains in their literacy skills.
Currently, the library continues to offer the preschool program in collaboration with community partners such as Good Wheels.
In addition, HCLC offers afterschool tutoring and homework help, with certified teachers and high school interns assisting students. Because local elementary school teachers recommend this program to parents, it’s become so popular that there’s a waiting list.
Offering classes for non-English speaking adults has also impacted academic proficiency because many parents who participate can then communicate better with their children’s teachers. Some participants have also improved enough to get job promotions.
In this tiny part of southwest Florida, this library initiative not only accomplished truly phenomenal results for the community’s kids, but surpassed its original scope to benefit adults as well.