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Financial Literacy for Preschoolers & Their Parents

Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County

Innovation Summary

With a $200,000 PNC Foundation grant, the Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County is partnering with United Way Success By Six ® and two area libraries on a 24-month financial literacy program to teach children ages 3-5 lessons in spending, sharing, and saving and to equip parents to reinforce the lessons at home.

Innovation Leader: Kim Fender, Executive Director, kim.fender@cincinnatilibrary.org

Problem Statement

Today our nation’s financial system is continually evolving, resulting in more choice—yet also posing new challenges. Americans increasingly are being required to understand and adapt to a changing financial landscape, and to take greater responsibility for their financial well-being. Through increased understanding of personal financial issues, everyone can enjoy better, more secure, and more satisfying lives. Consumers of all ages need the tools necessary to manage their money wisely, and to turn their financial education into action. They must understand how the financial choices and decisions they make affect the attainment of their goals. Financial competence is rooted in learned attitudes and behaviors toward money, and these are more easily instilled when taught early in life. Providing basic financial planning education to young people today will help create a population of fiscally responsible and self-reliant adults tomorrow. But how do parents help their children learn sound financial basics, especially if they lack a solid foundation in money matters?

Innovation

The Library and United Way Greater Cincinnati Success By 6 ® received a two-year $200,000 grant from the PNC Foundation to teach area children lessons in spending, sharing, and saving, and to equip parents to reinforce the lessons at home. The grant allows the Library and Success By Six ® to develop a series of fun, entertaining preschool story times that engage children ages 3-5 and their parents and caregivers in financial theme-based activities. Based on “For Me, For You, For Later: First Steps to Spending, Sharing and Saving ™,” a multi-media bilingual financial education activity kit created by Sesame Workshop, these story times incorporate books, video clips and hands-on activities that introduce basic money concepts through everyday learning experiences. Additionally, the grant provides support for evening financial education workshops for families facilitated by PNC employee volunteers at the Library and other community partner locations. For Me, For You, For Later activities will be the focus a story time once a quarter, from January 2012 to September 2013 at all 41 libraries located in Hamilton County, Ohio, and each of the three libraries located in both Campbell and Kenton counties in northern Kentucky. Two-hour evening Family Workshops will be presented at 29 locations in low to moderate income communities from April 2012 to September 2012, and 40 additional workshops will take place from January 2013 to June 2013. The workshops will also educate parents and caregivers about additional services located at Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) and Financial Opportunity Centers (FOC) that provide families and individuals with a full range of services and support, from financial coaching and income tax preparation to credit counseling. Finally, a minimum of 10 early learning programs will be conducted within child care agencies and public schools in close proximity to the Financial Opportunity Centers.

Progress

The objective for this financial literacy program is for nearly 3,000 preschool children (and their parents and caregivers) to develop good financial habits by learning how to spend, share and save their money. Measurement tools are in place to test the effectiveness of the program in meeting stated outcomes. Response to the program during the first quarter has exceeded all expectations, with more than double the attendance planned for at the 41 preschool story times conducted at the Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County. Children’s Librarians have reported a number of positive anecdotal comments on the story time content and activities from parents and caregivers accompanying the children. The Library’s goals for education align closely with those of United Way, particularly with making kindergarten readiness a top priority. The Library has partnered with Success By 6 ® since 2004 to train parents and child care providers in Shared Reading, an effective method for improving language skills. In 2007, the Library used LSTA funding to expand its early childhood literacy intervention efforts for ages 2-5 with its Early Learning Express, reaching out to in-home childcare providers to teach them how to prepare children for kindergarten success. To improve kindergarten readiness, thousands of story times for babies, toddlers, and preschoolers are presented annually at all 41 Library locations. Plus, the availability of Early Literacy Stations at many locations further enhances development of young minds. As indicated by improved Kindergarten Readiness Assessment-Literacy scores, these efforts are working. According to Cincinnati Public Schools, over the last three years, the percentage of kids entering kindergarten who scored 19 points or higher out of a possible 29 rose from 44% to 54.4%. This innovative financial literacy program adds another powerful tool to the Library’s arsenal of early childhood education initiatives to help ensure our young children are prepared when they start school with the skills they need to read and succeed.