West Toledo library hopes to boost literacy with $3.3M ‘fairytale’ additionWritten by Jordan Finney | | firstname.lastname@example.org
A statewide test called Kindergarten Readiness Assessment – Literacy (KRA-L) is administered to kindergartners to show how much “intervention” or additional help they may need to learn to read. However, only one-third of kindergartners in the Toledo area pass this annual literacy test, according to the Ohio Department of Education’s (ODE) 2011 report.
KRA-L assesses oral language, rhyming, letter identification and alliteration – four components that are “essential for reading,” according to ODE.
“If you’re not ready to learn to read by kindergarten then statistics say you won’t catch up in time to be reading by third grade,” said Nancy Eames, youth services coordinator for Toledo-Lucas County Public Library. “We want more children in Lucas County to be ready. If you can read you can do anything and if you can’t then you will miss a lot of opportunities.”
In September, the West Toledo branch of Toledo-Lucas County Public Library closed for an extensive remodeling project, which includes the addition of an elevator, updated basement facilities, dozens of new computers and an entirely new area of the library that will be dedicated to children’s literature.
“The renovation will create a unique space for children to develop good literacy skills in Toledo,” said Julie Bursten, manager at the West Toledo branch. “The library’s an old and historic building that was constructed in 1930. They’re doing a good job maintaining its character even while we’re adding on a whole new section that’s focused on helping children.”
Bursten said the children’s literature section of the library has no official name yet, but will sport a “Bookingham Forest theme” inspired by the library’s mission to boost KRA-L scores and improve children’s literacy in Toledo.
“We’re excited about it. It’s a well-done project,” said Charlie Oswanski, facilities and operations superintendent for the Toledo-Lucas County Public Library. “The architectural group has done a good job of managing challenges, maintaining and restoring the Tudor architecture of the building and creating a special place for kids.”
Oswanski said that he thinks the “charming old architecture” of the library will add to the “fairytale” inside, which features four custom-carved, fabricated trees that stretch from the floor to the ceiling.
“People who were here in the ’60s and ’70s remember what the library looked like in its old glory days,” Oswanski said. “We’ve tried to restore some of that with the nuances of fairytale. This work is going to add to all that magic.”
The fairytale section is a major part of the library renovation’s overall $3.3 million budget, “half of which has been paid for by the state and half by a local levy,” Oswanski said.
Mary Krall, whose house is located next to the construction site, said she is “definitely excited” to see the library expanding, even if it means waking up to the sound of bulldozers.
“Around 7:30 a.m. the bulldozers start and the house shakes, which isn’t very pleasant,” Krall said. “But it’s inevitable that you’re going to have to pay a price if you want the expansion. Everyone’s going to complain about the noise, but I’m still really glad they’re doing the work. It will be great for kids.”
In addition to the new children’s literature addition, the library has invested in a “Ready to Read van” that visits at-risk areas around the city as part of its outreach services. The library’s educational programming is based off a national initiative called Every Child Ready to Read.
“If we can change the behavior of parents and childcare providers by equipping them with information then we can raise those KRA-L scores,” Eames said. “We adapt our training to the individual child’s parents and then we follow up. Our hope is to stay in touch with them.”
The library’s Ready to Read van made its debut April 9 and has since trained about 180 parents and 25 childcare providers.
“Those critical preschool years before children start school are when many families may not be connected to quality child care,” Eames said. “The library’s here, it’s free, and we’ve invested a lot in it so children can come here and learn. We want to help families get ready for kindergarten.”
Tags: Charlie Oswanski, children’s literature, Every Child Ready to Read, Julie Bursten, Mary Krall, Nancy Eames, Ready to Read van, Renovation, Toledo-Lucas County Public Library, West Toledo branch library, West Toledo Library