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Play and Learn Group

Seattle Public Library
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Problem Statement

Families choose from a variety of providers to care for their young children. In Seattle there has been an emphasis to support family, friend and neighbor care in order to support quality early learning no matter what kind of child care situation a child is in. The Seattle Public Library offers a myriad of services and collections to support these caregivers, but is not always able to meet the programming or collection needs of every group or individual. The Library also needed to expand its thinking in terms of how a library facility can be used to support early learning.


Because we know children learn through play, and caregivers and parents enjoy spending time together, King County Child Care Resources (CCR) supports a network of Play & Learn groups. Each Play & Learn group is unique, reflecting the community and organization where it is located. The Library sought out the help of CCR to create Play and Learn groups in branch libraries. Both CCR and the Library saw this as an opportunity to support the needs of the community, while each partner focused on what it did best. CCR helped to connect libraries to community based providers trained in deploying the Play and Learn model.

At a Play & Learn group, the children play with other children of the same age, engage in a variety of activities including arts and crafts, games, physical play, and circle time. Caregivers and parents learn more about how children learn through play, early literacy and school readiness, and other topics relating to the joys and challenges of caring for young children.

The community based organization provides the early childhood trained staffing to set up and manage the Play and Learn environment. The Library provides meeting room space, storage and librarians to support this group, as well as to enhance the early literacy goals of the group. In the past year this included parent lectures, special collections and interactive programming.


Beside all of the fun that families are having, two key results are worth noting:

  1. The Library and the community based organization were able to reach new clientele. For example, in one branch the group is an almost exclusively Chinese speaking audience, with the content taught in both English and Chinese. These are families that were not necessarily library users before, and now they see their local branch as being relevant to their needs.
  2. Library staff is engaging with community partners in a new way. Staff is facilitating early learning opportunities for their communities, reaching new audiences with the early literacy message, and expanding the walls of the library to partnering organizations.