Family Place Libraries is a public library initiative "for early learning, parent engagement, family support, and community connectivity to ensure children get the best start in life". Family Library spaces and programs welcome, encourage, and support families with young children in the library. This includes special Play & Learn Centers, parenting resources, and library programs that cater to caregivers and children ages birth to five years old. Harris County Public Libraries currently offer Family Place areas and programs in 15 out of our 27 branches, with the goal of having them in all branches. Play & Learn Centers are always available to the public during open hours in the Children's areas of branches with Family Places, and bi-yearly Family Workshop programs are offered to families with kids ages birth to five years old.
Family Place Libraries is founded on seven core components:
Librarians and support staff must be specially trained in order to offer and run Family Place centers and programs via in-person and virtual professional development workshops. The staff of the Family Place Libraries Training Institute train library staff, evaluate and make site visits to all Play & Learn Centers in libraries across the nation. Training takes place at the original Family Place Library, Middle Country Public Library (MCPL), in Long Island, NY.
The Parent/Child or Family Workshop is a special five-week program held twice a year for children birth to five years and their caregivers. The workshop consists of one-hour, child-led sessions in which families play with various passive toys and stations while local community experts offer resources and advice to caregivers.
Play & Learn Centers are safe and specialized spaces in children's areas that feature passive toys (no batteries, screens, lights, sounds, etc.) that are educational and provide dramatic play opportunities. Toys offered include wooden transportation vehicles, animals and food, building blocks and puzzles, writing center for drawing and coloring, and play market and kitchen. Some also offer dress-up clothes, baby dolls and accessories, and big body play structures.
Helpful resource information and parenting collection materials are kept in or near the Play & Learn Centers. Parenting collection materials include books, toys, early literacy kits, music, and multimedia materials meant for babies, toddlers, preschoolers, parents, caregivers, and service providers.
Libraries connect caregivers to needed community resources and enhance library services and programs through partnerships with health, education, and human service agencies that serve families and young children. Harris County Libraries partner with the Barbara Bush Literacy Foundation, Harris County Public Health, and Phillips 66 to fund and maintain Family Place centers and programs.
Special Programs for Babies & Toddlers
All Harris County Library branches offer Baby, Toddler, and Preschool story times weekly or monthly. Librarians and other trained staff present books, stories, rhymes, and songs for little ones, as well as early literacy games and tips for parents and caregivers.
Librarians and staff often go to local daycares, churches, schools, and community centers to promote Family Place. We provide brochures and other information to caregivers, directors, teachers, and possible stakeholders about the important literacy and support that Family Place Libraries offer to the community.
All of the seven components together create a valuable and worthwhile family literacy initiative that benefits and enriches whole communities. Young children and families deserve the best start possible, and Family Place is here to help them all!
Have you and your family visited a Family Place Library center or attended a program before? Drop a comment and tell us about it!