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  • Writer's pictureHillsboro City Library

Library Partners with National Organizations to Launch New Program to Area Families

Pictured (l to r): Carol Clymer, Ph.D., Penn State University; Elizabeth McLean, Ph.D., Penn State University; Ben Cowan, Library Board Vice-President; Gonzalez family; Grant-Panting family; Brandy Hackler, Youth Services Librarian; Carmona family; Abreu family; Nall family; Ochoa family; Hackler family; Charles Eaton, Library Board Member; Justin Dyer, Assistant Library Director; Allen family; and the Dotson family.

Hillsboro City Library is one of four libraries in the nation selected to participate in adapting, evaluating and distributing “Talk with Me Toolkits,” a pilot early literacy program created by the Smithsonian Office of Educational Technology.

The library is working in partnership with the national Family Place Libraries network, the Smithsonian Office of Educational Technology, Goodling Institute for Research in Family Literacy at Penn State University and the Public Library Association to introduce the toolkits to area families. Of the four libraries selected for the program, the Hillsboro City Library is by far the smallest and most rural of the libraries and the only participant selected in Texas.

Hillsboro Library Director, Susan Mann stated, “The Hillsboro Library is excited to collaborate with such esteemed national organizations on this pilot early literacy initiative. “Participation in a cutting-edge program like this highlights how vital libraries are to community growth and development.” Mann pointed out, “Libraries are no longer repositories for dusty old books, but are transforming into community gathering places that increase access to healthcare, open opportunities for continuing education, and so much more.”

The “Talk with Me Toolkits,” designed by the Smithsonian Office of Educational Technology, are built to encourage families to spend time having conversations on the topics of art, community, music, nature, science and space.

Digital content such as videos, photographs and artwork, along with hands-on activities and books make up the toolkits. Families are guided through the toolkits via conversational prompts that are designed to engage children and their caregivers with the toolkit’s topic.

Youth Services Librarian, Brandy Hackler, who is spearheading the new program, says, “The TMT toolkits are great at creating educational conversations between parent and child.”

She went on to say, “One of the primary goals of the youth service department at the Hillsboro Library is to promote literacy by giving families the tools they need to succeed. Creating conversations between a child and their parent is one of the best ways for a child to develop their early literacy skills and the Smithsonian’s “Talk with Me Toolkits” are one more tool the library can provide area families to help create those conversations.”

The Hillsboro City Library hosted 15 area families along with two researchers from the Goodling Institute at Penn State University in Pennsylvania at the library’s first “Talk with Me Toolkit” program last week.

Participating families worked through the online toolkits together and engaged in several hands on activities on the topic of “Air and Space: Can it Fly?” while the researchers from Penn State collected data on the functionality of the toolkits.

Penn State and the Smithsonian will use the information gathered from the Hillsboro Library, and other participating libraries, to improve the toolkits for future users.

The pilot “Talk with Me Toolkit” program will run for the next four weeks and take place again in the fall of this year.

If you have questions about the new “Talk with Me Toolkits” or are interested in participating in the program reach out to the library’s Youth Services Librarian at (254) 582-7385.

Read this story in the Thursday, February 16 edition of "The Reporter."

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