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Queens Public Library receives $490K grant to advance early childhood program

Queens Public Library is expanding services at select branches offering browsing and computer use beginning May 10. (QNS/File)

The Queens Public Library (QPL) has received a generous grant that will help enhance its early learning program for young community members.

QPL was awarded a $490,000 grant by The Power Fund, a new initiative by Robin Hood, New York City’s “largest poverty-fighting organization.” The initiative is meant to “fund and elevate nonprofit leaders of color who share Robin Hood’s mission of increasing mobility from poverty, while addressing the interplay of racial injustice and economic injustice through their work.”

“Robin Hood’s Power Fund grant is a huge honor for Queens Public Library, and will advance our work towards racial equity and creating learning opportunities for people of all ages and circumstances, starting at the earliest stages of life,” QPL President Dennis Walcott said. “On behalf of the library, I want to thank Robin Hood for their generosity, support and partnership with us.”

Dennis M. Walcott, president of Queens Public Library. (Photo courtesy of QPL)

With the support of the grant, QPL will aim to improve its early childhood program by developing the infrastructure where all library services, from collections to programming, are data-informed and grounded in evidence-based practices.

QPL, which serves Queens’ more than 2.3 million residents, plans to implement a quality-improvement framework to test and refine their programs based on real-time data, including feedback from staff and visitors.

For the early childhood program, QPL will then use the framework to evaluate, streamline and enhance programming offered to children up to 5 years old — with a goal to increase their literacy skills so they are prepared to be successful in kindergarten.

QPL’s commitment to the communities it serves across the borough starts with its youngest patrons and their families, according to Walcott.

The mission of the library’s early learning work is “to positively transform families through the offering of vital early learning opportunities that cultivate intellectual growth and support families in being their child’s first teachers.”

QPL has various programs targeting families and children in developmentally appropriate ways as well as supporting parents with effectively engaging their children in early literacy practices. The public library system, which serves one of the most ethnically and culturally diverse area in the country, looks at the family from a holistic perspective, considering how health, socioeconomic status, race and educational opportunities impact families and deeply affect those ages 0 to 5 when designing and implementing programs.

Given the diversity of QPL’s patrons at about 66 locations in the borough, each branch has staff that are given the tools to tailor programs so that they are high-quality and meet community needs. To do this effectively, QPL leaders believe staff not only need the capacity to collect and analyze data in order to identify those needs, but also the knowledge of evidence-based practices and the ability to integrate those practices into current programmatic structures.

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