Library Chosen for Early Literacy Fellowship

Posted on July 21, 2021

The T.L.L. Temple Memorial Library in Diboll has been selected as one of 22 Rural Library Fellows by Partners for Education and Save the Children.

The Rural Library Fellowship is an initiative designed to improve third-grade reading outcomes in rural communities.

“The Rural Library Fellowship will provide an invaluable opportunity to cultivate librarians as change-makers and libraries as key partners in their communities, especially around third-grade reading outcomes,” said Regina R. Washington, director of Rural Impact Networks at Partner for Education.

The program will run for two years, from July of 2021 to June of 2023. In the first year, there will be 12 months of capacity building and training webinars, one-on-one coaching and technical assistance, as well as peer-to-peer and in-person learning opportunities. The second year will focus on implementing plans created by the library that are tailored to the needs of the community.

Librarians will receive peer consultation, leadership development, coaching and funding to implement the strategies they develop. The library also will engage in a community of practice with other librarians from rural regions in 19 states across the country.

“I’m looking forward to working closely with each of our 22 Rural Library Fellows to create action plans tailored to the needs of their community,” said Wendy Johnston from Partner for Education, who will lead the training sessions. “I’m excited to use my knowledge of rural libraries and librarians to help others better serve their communities.”

The library will receive a stipend to offset the costs of participation, including travel expenses, and an additional $5,000 award from Save the Children to implement a plan to increase the third-grade reading outcomes.

“Save the Children works with over 200 of rural America’s most impoverished communities, helping to meet children’s unmet needs. Libraries in rural areas are uniquely positioned to serve as community anchors for young learners. That’s why we are so excited to be a part of this initiative,” said Lesley Graham, senior director of Community Impact at Save the Children. “By focusing on third-grade reading, that critical year when kids transition from learning to read to reading to learn, we’re confident the Rural Library Fellows will have the tools, skills and resources they need to build lifelong learners and set children up for success.”

Justin Barkley, library director, said he is excited about this partnership because the program will be a first step at early intervention, identifying some things the library can work on while getting readers on level so they can tackle more difficult things later on.

“In East Texas, most counties in our service region have fewer than 45% of third-graders reading on level,” he said. “Obviously, this compounds as they get further into school and becomes harder to correct. We’re hoping that this work will solve a very real issue in Angelina County and then be something that we can share with the surrounding area to build a stronger East Texas.”

Barkley said the library has a few other programs it is working to get off the ground this fall and into 2022.

“We hope they will really support family learning and create a sort of a cradle-to-graduation strategy that sets local students and their families up for success,” he said.