Gifts to Madison Public Library Foundation are helping Madison Public Library’s Parents as First Teachers program, coordinated by the library’s Youth Services team, expand to reach hundreds more families throughout Dane County.

The library is collaborating with Madison Reading Project, a local nonprofit organization that works to get free, high-quality books — including diverse, culturally relevant ones that celebrate BIPOC authors and illustrators — to kids to build home libraries and ignite a love of reading. Madison Reading Project is distributing the library’s materials and resources in addition to their own to those served by RISE Wisconsin (home to Parent-Child+, ECI and Welcome Baby) and Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin’s KinderReady program. Foundation contributions cover the costs of new English, Spanish, bilingual and Hmong books and materials, as well as supplies for special projects and events held at the library or hosted by library staff at partner locations.

This summer, Youth Services Librarians Madeleine Kain and Tracy Moore put together more than 60 Little Learner Kits for the Northside Early Childhood Zone as another new component of Parents as First Teachers. Each kit included letter, number and color recognition resources; some free books; and a bag featuring the library’s We Read celebration of literacy. Seven of the kits were created in Spanish. The Friends of Lakeview Library and foundation donations funded the kits’ creation. Parents as First Teachers also provided 400 board books and early literacy handouts to United Cerebral Palsy of Greater Dane County’s Birth to 3 Connections program, which serves children who have developmental delays and disabilities.

The materials “will support us as we continue to give children and families high-quality books throughout their time in the Birth to 3 program,” Stephanie Mikesell, Director of Birth to 3 Connections, wrote in a letter to Parents as First Teachers coordinators. “Along with their books, we will be giving families information about the various libraries in the communities near them, including information about applying for a library card, resources available at their local library, and the handouts for parents (Play Read Sing, Books to Help Your Baby Grow) you shared with us.”

Beginning in 2014 in collaboration with Public Health of Madison & Dane County, the Parents as First Teachers program provides early literacy materials, training and resources to partner organizations to support conversations about the role parents play as their child’s first teacher, and the impact reading, singing and playing have on child development. Literacy Packs were created in English and Spanish for nurses in PHMDC’s Nurse Family Partnership and Prenatal Care Coordination programs to distribute to the families visited. Each included a board book, early literacy activity sheets, a library card application and a simple puppet craft, along with a short training on the importance of early literacy and great books to use with young children. 

Parents as First Teachers later established a presence in PHMDC clinic waiting rooms with informational displays, then added Literacy Packs for the Northside Early Childhood Zone (NECZ). In addition to board and picture books for newborns to 4-year-olds working with NECZ service providers, the library also shared books for older siblings and Resource Packs that the providers could use to enhance their home visits.

The families served by the organizations the library partners with for Parents as First Teachers are precisely the families that library staff want to reach and support: young mothers without resources or experience, and those struggling with housing, job and food insecurity. The library’s partnerships with service organizations help to bolster and build on librarians’ knowledge and resources, and provide literacy information and materials to families in need who can greatly benefit from this support.

The foundation wishes to thank Margie Devereaux and David Hall, EZ Office Products and Madison Reading Project for their support in expanding the Parents as First Teachers program.

If you would like to make a donation to Parents as First Teachers, visit and list the program when designating your gift. You may also include Parents as First Teachers in the memo line of your check if you prefer to mail your contribution.

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