Library, schools work toward new cooperation County newsletter is first of several joint efforts

January 19, 1998|By Howard Libit | Howard Libit,SUN STAFF

When Baltimore County's 17,000 second- and third-graders received a newsletter called Reading Together this winter, it represented more than just an attempt to promote family literacy.

It also marked what county public library and school officials hope will be the beginning of a new level of cooperation between the two large county organizations.

"We want to be more collaborative because we both have the same goal about encouraging children to read," said Jim Fish, director of Baltimore County's public libraries. "We've worked together before, but not to the degree that we could."

After the school district and the library system jointly published the newsletter, the two groups set up an informal committee to explore other ways to work together, Fish said.

Ideas suggested by library and school officials include improving communication between teachers and local branches about student research projects; expanding ways libraries can reach children who haven't begun kindergarten; and beginning a major campaign in the spring to promote family reading.

The Reading Together newsletter is expected to be published again in the spring. The school system donated paper for the newsletter and distributed it through all elementaries, while the library system's staff designed and printed it.

The six-page newsletter includes activities and reading selections aimed at second- and third-graders, with ideas for parents interested in reading to their children.

"I'm excited that we're looking for ways to cooperate more," said Della Curtis, coordinator of the county school system's office of library information services. "I think there are a lot of folks over there and a lot of folks in our system who can see solutions, and what we need to do is combine our resources."

Libraries and the schools work together on other projects. The library system's computers have served as the host for the school district's Internet home page for the past two years, and all school media centers receive access to the Internet through the library system, Curtis said.

Many schools also participate in a summer program operated by libraries to encourage elementary students to read books when they're not in class.

But, as a sign of increased cooperation, libraries and the school system might try to expand the reading program to middle-school grades, Curtis said. Such an effort would be in line with recent attempts by county educators to bolster reading instruction for sixth- , seventh- and eighth-graders.

"We've always had individual teachers working with individual librarians," said Beth McGraw-Wagner, manager of the Parkville-Carney branch and co-editor of the newsletter. "By trying to get together, we can feed off of each other. We've been pleased by the response we have gotten to Reading Together, and now we hope to build on that."

Pub Date: 1/19/98

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