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Get Involved in Your Community’s Early Learning Efforts! Compete for the 2012 All-America City Award!

September 26, 2011

By Susan Hildreth
Director, IMLS

Last spring, I attended the Washington DC launch of the Campaign for Grade-Level Reading. Spearheaded by the Annie E. Casey Foundation and a broad coalition of public/private organizations, including the National Civic League, the National League of Cities, and United Way Worldwide,  the campaign is a coordinated, national effort to boost reading by 3rd grade. Recognizing that “third grade is a critical juncture on the road to high school graduation,” the campaign plans to tackle three challenges: school readiness, summer reading loss, and chronic school absenteeism.

Importantly, the Campaign for Grade-Level Reading recognizes that it will require community solutions to achieve success, and I know that libraries and museums play key roles in the early learning experiences of parents, caregivers, and young children.  We at IMLS are proud of the many early learning grants that we have awarded to libraries and museums around the country—through our national discretionary grant programs and at the state level through our grants to states work.  Many of these projects are already “moving the needle” on school readiness and summer reading loss!  And we are currently planning a partnership with the campaign to craft a more intentional approach to this important national issue. But before we announce our plans, there is something you can consider right now.

In 2012, as an extra incentive for communities to work collaboratively to meet the campaign's goals, the National League of Cities’ prestigious All America City Awards will be given to the 10 communities that “develop the most comprehensive, realistic, and sustainable plans for improving grade-level reading by increasing school readiness, reducing school absenteeism, and addressing summer learning loss.”  The award requires each community to form a cross-sector team to create the detailed plan.

You can read more about the award at

We know that many libraries and museums are already working with their community partners on their applications. The important key dates for this competition are:   October 14, for the submission of a letter of intent confirming a community mobilization to develop a plan and secure data, March 12, 2012, for the submission of the application, and June 30-July 2, 2012, when finalists will present plans at a Denver conference and winners will be announced.

This is a wonderful opportunity for libraries and museums to move their early learning efforts forward! I encourage you to learn more about the Campaign for Grade-Level Reading and the All-America City Award, consider how you can work with other organizations in your community on its early learning needs, and throw your hat in the ring!