Libraries And Schools Partner To Benefit Kids

Going Back to School With Your Library

Backpacks are full of markers, notebooks, and calculators. Yellow buses are winding their way through town. Homeschool groups are starting to meet up again. School is now well underway for students across Jefferson County, from those learning their ABCs to those planning their next steps after they get their diplomas.

As the school year kicks off, library staff are partnering with schools to share resources and help develop a love of reading in students. In Watertown, students from various schools will soon be visiting the Watertown Public Library to explore the new TalkReadPlay Center and read a few books with librarian Tina Peerenboom.

At the Hartland Public Library, librarian Peter Blenski welcomes kindergarten, first, and second grade classes to the library every month from October through May for stories and library lessons. Blenski uses fun activities and videos to teach story elements, how to compare two texts, and how to use the library catalog. “When teaching story elements, I use Little Red Riding Hood and I put myself in the story via Powerpoint animations. It always brings the house down,” Blenski says.

School-library partnerships are beneficial collaborations made possible because of great working relationships between public library staff, teachers, administrators, parents, and school/district librarians. By supporting each other, staff can cultivate a love of reading and a positive association with libraries within all students. “The cooperation between the schools and the public library relays the message that the public library is an important part of a child’s academic career,” says Pewaukee Public Library librarian Jenny Wegener. “As partners, along with the schools and the parents, we can ensure every child succeeds.”

Several school-aged children dance and play with balloons and streamers in a school gym

Public libraries also support teachers. According to librarian Julia Birch, libraries supplement the teachers’ curriculum in any way needed. At the Jefferson Public Library, “we have one teacher who will check out 50+ books for her classroom each time they start a new unit,” she said. The Watertown Public Library’s Book Bag program for educators, childcare providers, and homeschool families who live in or teach in the Watertown area. Library staff select books for them based on theme, age range, and type of materials needed. Peerenboom said, “It’s a wonderful service and a great way to connect with local educators.”

Sometimes, a dance party is the best way to celebrate reading. The Pauline Haass Public Library in Sussex partners with the Hamilton School District to present “Firsties,” a special program that honors new readers and invites their families to make public library visits a regular event. Library staff films fun monthly videos that the teachers show in school about library resources and programs. The videos also contain a secret code word. When the Firstie visits the library and shares the code word, they get a prize. At the end of the year, the library throws a family dance party for participating Firsties from all schools. “We hope this incentive to visit the library will lead to more time spent on reading and will build that regular library habit,” says Library Director Adele Loria.

Like peanut butter and jelly, schools and libraries just go together. With books, library cards, and positive partnerships, we strive to create communities of confident learners and strong readers.

Written by Jill Fuller, Marketing & Communications Librarian for Bridges Library System. A version of this article appeared in several local newspapers in September 2022. We are sharing those pieces here on our website a few weeks after each piece has been printed.