Colorado Libraries in the 2010s: Children and Family Literacy Focus & Expansion

This post was written by Sharon Morris, Director of Library Development for the Colorado State Library.

What are the major library trends across the state in 2010 and the teens? And where may things be heading in the 2020s? Throughout January 2020, we will be taking a look back at the 10s and Teens in Colorado libraries. Our series continues with Children and Family Literacy Focus & Expansion.

Children and Family Literacy Focus & Expansion

  • During the 2010-19 years, Colorado public libraries recognized their key role as early literacy experts. Most public libraries now offer baby storytimes, toddler dance parties, and many more of the perennial favorite: preschool storytimes. In fact, library programs for children increased 72% from 2010 to 2018 (most recent year available, preliminary data). In those same years, attendance jumped from 1.36 million to 2.18 million children attending Colorado public library programs.
  • Public libraries prioritized early literacy in many ways beyond increasing programs. Many libraries now offer outreach to young children, larger library systems added whole early literacy departments (e.g., Denver Public Library, Arapahoe Library District), and several Colorado public libraries created early literacy librarian positions. In addition, rural public libraries in areas spanning Yuma, Lamar, Dolores, and Craig, expanded their staffing with part-time or full-time youth services specialists.
  • Colorado Libraries for Early Literacy (CLEL) went from an activist group of roughly 15 that hosted a website and annual meeting to an organization with over 300 members, an annual, multi-track conference, a web resource with book awards (CLEL Bells), 10 Storytime Skill Builder videos, and over 40 StoryBlocks videos of songs and rhymes for children.
  • The Colorado State Library worked with libraries throughout Colorado on Supporting Parents in Early Literacy through Libraries. These grants included research, local grants, and significant changes in services for young children and the parents and caregivers that teach them. One recommendation of this research was a removal of fines and fees on children’s materials which has informed a national trend of eliminating fines in libraries.
  • In 2016, the first libraries launched Growing Readers Together, a Temple Hoyne Buell Foundation grant for local libraries to expand their early literacy spaces, partnerships, outreach, and services to informal caregivers of children under age 5.
  • Additional partnerships at the state level saw the launch of One Book (4) Colorado in 2012, which has continued annually as a statewide book distribution of 75,000 copies of the same book via public and military libraries. It’s like a book club for 4 year olds so that every one of them can get a free copy of a book and share that story with their family and friends.
  • The trend of focus on family, friend and neighbor care as well as the “two generation” approach to library services to youth and families are likely to continue and expand in the 20s.