The BEST Partnernship in Northern Kentucky

Amanda Hopper has worked with the Youth Services Department at Boone County Public Library for five years and is currently the Youth Services Coordinator.  Amanda lives in Union with her husband and two daughters.  She is passionate about serving the children and families of Boone County.  

Public schools and public libraries have a common goal of enhancing literacy and academic skills; however, many times these institutions work in isolation to meet this goal.  Why is it that more libraries don’t partner with their local schools?  Boone County Public Library has recognized the problem and instituted partnerships with public schools and community organizations to support literacy and academic enhancement.  One way we do this is to serve as the B.E.S.T partner for Longbranch Elementary.  The Business Education success Team (B.E.S.T) program, adapted from a national model, was established in 1989 by the Northern Kentucky Chamber of Commerce to “connect the business community to schools throughout the Northern Kentucky area, to share resources, improve communication, and ultimately impact workforce development in the region.”  (Source:  Northern Kentucky Education Council @ https://www.nkypartners.org/take-action/best).  B.E.S.T partners typically include banks, food companies, and manufacturing plants.  So, why would Longbranch Elementary approach BCPL to partner with them, knowing that the Library could not provide the same type of monetary funds?  Basically, because BCPL and Longbranch (along with the school system, in general) have a shared goal of providing educational programs that will help increase the academic success of the children in Boone County.  The principal of Longbranch, Erika Bowles, realized that the new school needed to establish partnerships like these with community organizations in order to maximize student learning.  Meanwhile, the Library was seeking ways to reach out to parents, advertise their programs, and raise awareness of their school partnerships.

Through the partnership, the school and library hoped to introduce families to library services, increase the level of literacy in homes, offer free homework assistance, create materials to enhance teachers’ implementation of Common Core Standards, increase family use of the public library, strengthen the professional development of the teachers, share the library collection with the school, and decrease summer learning loss by a summer reading program.

Through the B.E.S.T partnership, BCPL has provided:

  • 1000 books for the English/Language Arts units of instruction to provide the 725 students that attend Longbranch with greater access to high-level reading material that meet school requirements
  • 5 Core Connection Curriculum Kits on the topics of Government, Kentucky History, Economics, Health, and American Contributions for use by the teachers in classroom instruction
  • Library cards for students
  • Weekly Homework Help sessions
  • Family Reading Nights at the Boone County Public Library
  • Professional development for teachers
  • Parent workshops at PTA meetings, such as “Nonfiction:  Just for the Fun of It”
  • A summer reading program, where 258 Longbranch students participated, for a total reading time of 1,940 hours.
  • An eight-week summer program partnering a first, second, or third grade Longbranch student with a teen reading buddy
  • Other programs and services designed to impact student achievement and build positive relationships among community organizations.

Parents who attended the nonfiction workshop reported to school staff that they are excited to have new reading options for their children.  And according to the School Media Specialist, Stacie Kegley, students are checking out more nonfiction material on a daily basis. Parents are now attending the Library more with their children and those who participated in the Family Reading Night, felt they gained valuable tools for incorporating reading into their family activities.  The partnership has improved the perception of the public library as a true education partner, and more schools are now reaching out for support and resources.  The Core Connections Curriculum Kit prototypes that were prepared for Longbranch, for instance, are circulating to all of the schools in Boone County, and more kits are under construction.

Schools are busy places with high-stakes accountability and little extra time and resources to forge community partnerships.  Libraries have historically been self contained units, supporting the patrons who enter the library and possibly venturing out with books.  The Longbranch B.E.S.T. partnership is a model of how schools and libraries (and other organizations) can work together to have positive impact on the community with a minimum of time and resources.  In establishing and implementing the B.E.S.T. partnership, the school and library discovered that they already had the staff and resources and just needed a simple plan of action to move the partnership forward.  And, due to the current economic climate, schools and libraries must consider time and money implications for all of their services.  Working together to maximize the taxpayers’ investment not only provides good faith to the community, but also allows staff to offer more resources to their students and parents.   With the current changes in the state and national school standards, this partnership will provide a vehicle for the library to offer supplemental resources to assist teachers in meeting the requirements of the new standards.  The partnership will minimize the monetary demands for meeting the new standards by use of shared resources, including books and materials as well as support staff. This partnership serves as a simple yet powerful model of how community organizations can effectively work together for the good of their youngest citizens.

–Amanda

Reading and Feeding

Amanda Hopper has worked with the Youth Services Department at BCPL for five years and is currently the YS Coordinator.  Amanda lives in Union with her husband and two daughters.  She is passionate about serving the children and families of Boone County.  

 Choosing a topic for my blog post was easy. Not too long ago, I was conducting an orientation for a new staff member and as part of it, I told her about our partnership with the schools to provide lunches for kids during the summer.  She was surprised to hear about this outreach program and asked, “How have I never heard about this?”  I realized then that we spend a lot of time talking about what is happening inside our buildings, but not so much time talking about the services and projects we do outside our walls. This blog gives us an opportunity to tell you about some of our outreach projects that you’ve probably never heard about.

The idea for the Summer Read and Feed program first came up two years ago at a meeting of representatives from local organizations to address homelessness in Boone County.  We talked about how children who get free or reduced school lunches often go hungry during the summer months. Boone County School System had a summer food service program in place, but it was sometimes difficult for children to get to the school to be fed.  The Library had an outreach vehicle and a summer reading program, but no food.  It was obvious that by partnering, we could take the food to where the kids were and provide literacy activities at the same time. We decided to use the parking lot of the Beiderman Educational Center as our off-site location because it was within walking distance of a large number of hotels with these local students.  The Library’s outreach vehicle (Community Center on Wheels) transported food and staff to the parking lot and children were able to enjoy free food, free books, book discussions, and fun activities at each weekly Book Bash.  We also fed children, up to age 18, at a second site – the Florence Branch of the Library. This library is located in the heart of Florence and within walking distance from many families in need.

During our first Summer Read and Feed program in 2011, meals were only provided to children under age 18. We felt that if we offered food for the entire family, more people would attend and we could encourage family interaction during literacy activities. So, we decided to change that for the next year. Library staff began looking for literacy-based grants to take summer reading activities to underserved and at-risk populations in our county. For the summer of 2012, the Library was able to secure two such grants.

We received a $2000 Target Family Literacy Foundation Grant to help fund the 2012 eight-week Family Book Bash project in the Beiderman Educational Center parking lot.  Boone County Schools provided free lunches to all children under 18 and the Library provided books, developmentally appropriate activities and meals for the adults who accompanied the children. The collaborative activities fostered an environment conducive to reading enjoyment for both children and adults. An average of 40 children and 20 adults participated each week.

Using a $5000 Library Services Technology Act Summer Reading Summer Food Services Program Grant and some of the funds from the Target Family Literacy Foundation Grant we were able to continue the work begun the previous summer targeting the at-risk population in the Florence area near the Library. The SRSFS grant provided staffing, supplies, literacy-based games, and recreational activities and the Target grant provided free books, incentives and free meals for the adults who accompanied children to the community outreach events.  Boone County Schools provided the free meals for the children, under the age of 18, who attended.  1,389 children were fed at the 42 meal programs held in June and July.

Through the external funding we received and our partnership with Boone County Schools, we were able to expand our Summer Read and Feed program in 2012 to address the nutritional and literacy needs of both children and their parents.  We are already hard at work looking for grants for summer of 2013!

–Amanda