Houston

Houston Public Library system adding Family Place library spaces to boost child literacy efforts

More than 60% of children in Houston ISD are not equipped with the literacy skills they need in order to learn how to read. New library spaces and programs are designed to change that.

Family Place library
Ashley Brown/Houston Public Media
The Barbara Bush Foundation, Houston Public Library, and the City of Houston unveiled on Tuesday, their fourth Family Place library in Northwest Houston at the Collier Regional Library.

The Houston Public Library system opened a fourth Family Place library on Tuesday, helping to address the need for early literacy learning amongst younger children before they enter grade school.

The Barbara Bush Foundation, Houston Public Library, and the City of Houston unveiled the newest space inside the Collier Regional Library in Northwest Houston.

"The aim of Family Place Libraries is to help ensure more families the confidence and competence to support their child’s healthy development and early literacy success," said Dr. Julie Baker Finck, President of the Barbara Bush Houston Literacy Foundation.

The foundation said more than 60% of children in Houston ISD are not equipped with the literacy skills they need in order to learn how to read.

Baker-Finck said a couple of years ago, the foundation set a goal to support the installation of a Family Place library space in every branch throughout Harris County and the city of Houston by 2025 and the foundation is currently on track with completing that goal.

"Nineteen family place libraries will have been equipped and staff trained by the end of this calendar year," she said. "We've already made a commitment for more to open in 2023."

One of the cornerstones of the Family Place library is a 5-week program people can sign up for that gives families access to professionals that will guide parents with early literacy materials to teach their young children ages 1 to 3. Children can also explore different work stations that include things like books and toys to encourage a work and play environment.

LaTrisha Milton, HPL Youth and Family Services Manager, says public libraries are vital resources in the community.

“We want to be able to reach all people so that when they come into our library space they can get whatever they need no matter their income bracket, where they come from, no matter their family background," she said.

Park Place Regional Library on McKinney St. recently adopted the program and Milton said expanding the efforts will bring more resources to families that truly need them.

"Libraries remain welcoming spaces for intergenerational learning, growth, and exploration, and the expansion of the program will enable more families to benefit from the experience."

During the pandemic, libraries were closed and Collier Regional Library only offered curbside services to residents. Nguyen Nguyen, assistant manager at Collier Regional Library, says the new program will help families gain the resources they lost during the pandemic.

"Since the pandemic we're trying to get families to come back to us, they are realizing that they were missing out on the resources that were available."

Nguyen said he hopes the Family Place space and program will convince more families to revisit the library and take advantage of the resources.

"We want to be a place for the community to come out to so they can check out the resources that we have available for the family," he said, "It's a welcoming place for all families, we want to be the place where we can encourage literacy."

The program was in such high demand that fall 2022 registration spots have been filled. HPL wants to eventually get the literacy program into all of its libraries.

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