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ABC Read to Me

New York Public Library

Problem Statement

In New York City, there is a lack of support for families to develop reading readiness in pre-school age children. There is also a lack of awareness, on the part of the parents, as to the resources available at the New York Public Library.


As part of its Early Literacy Development Program, the Library produced and distributed 80,000 kits entitled “ABC Read to Me” which extend the storytelling, singing and finger-play programs that take place at Library branches. These kits, designed to increase parents’ and caregivers’ ability to nurture early literacy development, employed developmentally appropriate activities that could be done at home. The kit included an easy-to-read literacy brochure with simple tips to help adults share books with their children, a copy of Babybug magazine, a flip book of rhymes with accompanying finger-plays, and a musical accompaniment to the rhymes on a specially produced compact disc featuring music and lyrics. Additionally, the Library created posters with reading tips in English and Spanish as well as a Spanish-language version of the literacy brochure. Kits were distributed through the Library as well as through partner community agencies. The project also provided training to Library staff so that branches were prepared to plan, present, and conduct lapsit programs for babies and toddlers with their caregivers and conduct outreach initiatives in their service areas.


The ABC Read to Me materials received anecdotal praise and endorsements from the caregiver and parent populations as well as from community organizations who assisted with outreach. Parents reported that they used “much more expression when storytelling and singing” that they “do more with music and books” and other positive responses. Other typical survey responses were “I’m more aware of letters and phonics,” “I sing and dance with the baby,” “The songs are wonderful, they helped me learn English songs,” “I use the nursery rhymes. I’d forgotten them.” Collaborating with community agencies to distribute the kits raised awareness in the community of the resources available at local libraries. In addition, through training in these materials, Library staff increased their ability to promote early literacy and to work with parents and caregivers to extend their knowledge and abilities.