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Their Youngest Readers: A Washington Tribal Library Connects Children with the Community

April 17, 2019 ET

Photo credit: Swinomish Tribe
Photo credit: Swinomish Tribe

Jeanne Robson, Director, Swinomish Child Care Program
Carolyn Petersen, Assistant Program Manager, Library Development, Washington State Library
Sandra Toro, Ph.D., Senior Program Officer, IMLS

For over two decades, the Institute of Museum and Library Services has offered grants to tribal communities across the United States. Over the past ten years, 24 tribes from the state of Washington have been awarded more than 200 grants to provide library services to their communities.

The Swinomish Tribe is one such grantee, having applied for and received 16 IMLS grants since 1998. After a six-year break in participation, Jeanne Robson, Director of the Swinomish Child Care Program of the Susan Wilbur lop che ahl Early Education Center, decided to ask the Tribe’s grant department for help filling out a Native American Library Services Basic Grant application. She thought that participation in the program could help her develop library services for the children in the Tribe’s child care and preschool program.

“Perhaps most important at this time is we were able to purchase shelving and supplies that allow the materials to be accessible at all times,” said Jeanne. With the grant, the library collection is also expanding with materials that benefit the children, such as books created and illustrated by Pacific Northwest writers and illustrators that reflect images and stories of Coast Salish people.

According to Jeanne, the library gets lots of use. Currently, the child care program is coordinating with elementary school students to come read to the little ones. However, some of the favorite readers are members of the Swinomish police department. The officers visit whenever they can to read to the children. Some of the story times have included Pete the Cat books, Llama Llama books, Go Dog Go! and holiday books of the season.

This new library program also fits in well with the Swinomish Education Department’s new initiative, “Swinomish Reads!” The vision for the program is “literacy for children, families and community.”

“We’re really looking forward to participating in the Native American Library Services Basic Grant program again this year,” said Jeanne. “I know our young readers, their families, and the entire community will enjoy the new materials these grants allow us to purchase.”

About Native American Library Services Grants

The IMLS Native American library services grant program has two parts: noncompetitive Basic Grants support existing library operations and maintain core library services, such as for the Swinomish Tribe’s outreach to the youngest members of their community. Enhancement Grants are competitive grants that are available to carry out activities advancing the programs and services such as preservation and revitalization, educational programming, and digital services.

Last year, 16 Washington tribes received Basic Grants and two tribes were awarded Enhancement Grants. 2018 grants totaled $449,149 in IMLS funds and $38,304 in cost share provided by the tribes.

For more information on Native American Library Services grants, please visit the IMLS website.

Programs: 
Native American Library Services