December 7, 2012



IMLS Press Contact
Mamie Bittner, 202-653-4797
Giuliana Bullard, 202-653-4799

Campaign for Grade-Level Reading Contact
Phyllis Jordan, 301-656-0348

IMLS and the Campaign for Grade-Level Reading Convene Experts
Publication about the role of museums and libraries planned for April 2013

Washington, DC—Leaders from the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) and the Campaign for Grade-Level Reading met Dec. 5 to host the first in a series of listening activities that will inform the development of a groundbreaking policy report on the role of libraries and museums in early learning. The report, which will be released in April 2013, will lay the foundation for decision makers at the local, state, and federal levels to fully use the capacity of libraries and museums in their early learning efforts.

"Libraries and museums reach millions of children each year, and it is exciting to bring that capacity into focus," said IMLS director Susan Hildreth. "I am delighted that we will be able to tap expertise nationwide so that libraries and museums can more effectively engage in early learning strategies at the community, state, and national levels. "

To launch the conversation, IMLS and the Campaign brought representatives from libraries and museums together with policy makers, practitioners, experts, civic leaders and public and private funders who have made early learning a priority; the invited participants included representatives from the Smithsonian Institution, the Domestic Policy Council, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the U.S. Department of Education, United Way Worldwide, National Civic League, National League of Cities, and National Governors Association.

The conversation focused on:

  • How libraries and museums are filling gaps and expanding early childhood learning experiences in their communities.
  • The key policy levers that museums and libraries should be addressing as they develop early learning programs.
  • Strategies to engage museums and libraries in early learning decision making at the local, state and federal levels.
  • Ways to build relationships with civic leaders, policy makers, and other stakeholders to fully leverage library and museum contributions to meeting our nation’s early learning challenges.

Future listening activities will include webinars, conference calls and one-on-one meetings with thought leaders.

Research has shown that the early years in a child’s life—when the human brain is forming—represent a critically important window of opportunity to develop a child’s full potential and shape key academic, social, and cognitive skills that determine a child’s success in school and in life.

Ralph Smith, managing director of the Campaign for Grade-Level Reading and senior vice president of the Annie E. Casey Foundation noted that "despite major public and private investments, more than 80 percent of children in poverty are not reading at grade level by the end of third grade. This sets children up for failure in the later grades, fueling achievement gaps and dropout rates." The Campaign—a collaborative effort among foundations, nonprofit partners, states and communities—has made early literacy a key focus of its efforts to increase the number of low-income students reading proficiently by the end of third grade. The Campaign is currently working with 124 U.S. communities to promote literacy.

The Obama Administration has placed a priority on expanding access to high quality early childhood education and made the case that supporting early learning is among the smartest investments that we can make. And in December 2010, Congress reauthorized the Museum and Library Services Act, and created a mandate for the Institute of Museum and Library Services to support early learning through grant making, partnerships with federal agencies, research, and providing policy advice. Recent IMLS actions build on a long history of support for early learning activities and include:

About the Institute of Museum and Library Services
The Institute of Museum and Library Services is the primary source of federal support for the nation's 123,000 libraries and 17,500 museums. Our mission is to inspire libraries and museums to advance innovation, lifelong learning, and cultural and civic engagement. Our grant making, policy development, and research help libraries and museums deliver valuable services that make it possible for communities and individuals to thrive. To learn more, visit or follow @US_IMLS on Twitter.

About the Campaign for Grade-Level Reading
The Campaign for Grade-Level Reading, launched in early 2011, is a collaboration among foundations, national nonprofits, states, and communities across the nation to ensure that more children in low-income families succeed in school and graduate prepared for college, a career, and active citizenship. To learn more, visit or follow @readingby3rd on Twitter.