September 24, 2017

Katie Johnson | Movers & Shakers 2017 – Change Agents

Katie Johnson

CURRENT POSITION

Community Outreach Librarian, Twinsburg Public Library, OH

DEGREE

MLIS, Kent State University, OH, 2006

FOLLOW

@ReadwithKate (Twitter); Twinsburg Public Library

Photo by Patrick Heagney

MS_logo_300x81

Preschool—Plus

A few years ago, then youth services manager Katie Johnson noticed that no one from Pinewood Gardens, a subsidized housing development near the Twinsburg Public Library, was coming to story time. She reached out to the Akron Metropolitan Housing Authority (AMHA) to ask about setting up a weekly story time at the site, home to nearly 95 low-income kids under five. The answer was yes, and Johnson partnered with AMHA employee Kellie Morehouse to create Play, Learn, & Grow, an early learning and support program, in a vacant room near the leasing office.

While Johnson planned to focus on story time, crafts, and free play, she immediately “saw everything that these families lacked: employment, education, transportation, proper health care, access to preschool, even reliable phone service,” she wrote in an article in School Library Journal (“Ohio Storytime Turns into Life-Changing Program for Low-Income Families,” SLJ 2/16). Many didn’t have enough to eat. “With major stresses in their lives, our young participants weren’t going to make great strides.”

Most of these kids didn’t attend any pre-K learning programs, owing to lack of busing for the local Head Start program and too many requirements for busing to the local school district.

Johnson spearheaded partnerships and gathered wide-ranging support. Many children were behind on vaccinations, so she arranged for Ohio Department of Health representatives to provide them for free at story time. The local Women, Infants, and Children center opened a weekly on-site health-care clinic. A United Way grant funded lunch during story time, and Johnson arranged for a food bank to distribute fresh produce to residents. Partnering with AMHA and Ohio’s Child Guidance & Family Solutions, she homed in on maternal depression. Twice a month, the moms meet separately from the youngsters to discuss their challenges. “We remind parents that it’s okay to ask for advice, and it’s important to create a support system,” says Johnson.

Currently, her team is seeking funding for a shuttle bus or to bring a pop-up preschool to the development. In the meantime, “We see positive outcomes every week,” she says, ranging from “a child getting evaluated for a developmental delay” to “mothers getting to talk to a licensed therapist.”

Having parents who loved to read “provided an incredible foundation for me and my siblings,” adds Johnson. “I’d like to work with other public libraries and housing authorities on creating [similar] programs. It’s 2017; we need to find a way to get all children to preschool.”

This article was published in Library Journal. Subscribe today and save up to 35% off the regular subscription rate.

Share
Integrate Multiple Literacies Into Your Strategic Plan and Library Initiatives
The editors of Library Journal and School Library Journal have convened some of today’s leading advocates, thinkers, and doers on literacy programming in public libraries, including speakers from the March 2017 Public Library Think Tank in Miami, to discuss in actionable terms how public librarians are redefining literacy. Our Literacy Redefined online course will address literacy in its widest sense—digital, media/information, civic, reading readiness, visual, multicultural, and health literacy—and will identify tools for leveraging partnerships to fuel programming and funding.
Comment Policy:
  1. Be respectful, and do not attack the author, people mentioned in the article, or other commenters. Take on the idea, not the messenger.
  2. Don't use obscene, profane, or vulgar language.
  3. Stay on point. Comments that stray from the topic at hand may be deleted.
  4. Comments may be republished in print, online, or other forms of media, per our Terms of Use.

We are not able to monitor every comment that comes through (though some comments with links to multiple URLs are held for spam-check moderation by the system). If you see something objectionable, please let us know. Once a comment has been flagged, a staff member will investigate.

We accept clean XHTML in comments, but don't overdo it and please limit the number of links submitted in your comment. For more info, see the full Terms of Use.

Speak Your Mind

*