February 17, 2018

Katie Cerqua | Movers & Shakers 2016 – Change Agents

Katie Cerqua


Youth & Family Services Manager,
Virginia Beach Public Library


MLS, Clarion University of Pennsylvania, 2007

Photo ©2016 Shawn G. Henry

The Equalizer

Neither of Katie Cerqua’s parents went to college, but “they raised me to embrace reading, hard work, and education,” says the youth and family services manager at Virginia Beach Public Library (VBPL). Growing up near Pittsburgh, two blocks from a public library, Cerqua says that books and programs were always part of her life—and “the thought of other children missing out on that is troubling.”

Joining VBPL in 2007, Cerqua launched Every Child Ready To Read–based story times for kids six months to five years; VBPL now offers 2,000 curriculum-based story times annually. She transformed the bookmobile into an “early literacy classroom on wheels” for local preschools, says nominator Christine Brantley, VBPL community relations manager.

Cerqua’s most significant contribution, however, is a growing VBPL summer learning initiative she developed with Title 1 schools [those with low-income students] that addresses summer slide—a lapse in reading skills over the school’s summer vacation. In 2012, she worked with the city public schools’ Title 1 coordinator to create VBPL’s annual School-Based Summer Partnership Program. Designed to bring library events and literacy programming into school buildings, which are more accessible for many children than the public library, the program features STEAM [science, technology, engineering, arts, math] programming and a summer reading challenge. Sessions take place in school library media centers or classrooms; VBPL librarians bring in reading incentives and program supplies; and students receive a minimum of eight new books to bring home.

The program has yielded impressive statistics. When the schools compared participating students’ June Developmental Reading Assessment (DRA) scores to their fall returning DRA scores in 2013, they found that 76.9 percent of participants hadn’t experienced summer slide. In 2014, Cerqua’s outreach to Title 1 schools expanded from six to 11 sites; that year, 69 percent of participants stayed on track with DRA scores. Last summer, with nine librarians visiting Title 1 schools—79 outreach programs, more than 1,900 students exploring STEM-relevant topics including gravity, dinosaurs, weather wheels, owls, bees, tessellations, and spirals in nature—71 percent of DRA scores stayed even, and 25 percent rose.

“The Title 1 Summer Partnership is a living…project,” says Cerqua, who now oversees 15 VBPL staffers. “We are continuously exploring ways to work smarter, broaden our reach, and better support literacy skills and educational success.”

“You don’t need a lot of money, lofty degrees, or world travel to provide children with the tools…for success,” she adds. “A lot more can be accomplished to tackle literacy inequity when you…find the right partners.”

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



  1. I’m so glad to see Katie Cerqua receive this bee well-deserved recognition. She is an incredible asset to the Virginia Beach Public Library and the City of Virginia Beach!

  2. Karen Kehoe says:

    *very* well deserved.

  3. Katie Cerqua (aka Mighty Mite”) absolutely deserves this award – she is always looking forward, isn’t afraid to try new things and is passionate about early (and continuing) literacy. Congratulations, Katie! The City of Virginia Beach is so fortunate to have you in that position.

  4. Carolyn Bushey says:

    Congratulations Katie! I’ve always been impressed and amazed by how many YA books Katie reads and promotes! I saw her present at a regional VAASL (then VEMA) conference and it blew me away. Very well-deserved honor!