The time between birth and kindergarten is very important for intellectual, language, physical, social, and emotional development of children. The early years—for most children before age eight—provide the foundation for academic and social success.
Libraries and museums reach millions of children every year. As institutions that encourage curiosity and exploration, they can play a powerful role in shaping children’s early cognitive development. Museums and libraries have the ability to promote early learning at the community, state, and national levels and as part of inter-agency initiatives.
In their early years, children develop executive function, the skills that enable people to regulate emotions, make plans, organize ideas, communicate and ask good questions, and manage stress. IMLS partnered with the Families and Work Institute on writing Brain-Building Powerhouses: How Museums and Libraries Can Strengthen Executive Function Life Skills, a report which shares neuroscience research on learning and innovative ways in which libraries and museums can develop resources and experiences that support building the brain.
IMLS supports the goals of the Campaign for Grade-Level Reading. In recent years, the agency has invested over $2 million in grants to libraries and museums to improve school readiness, reduce summer reading loss, and lower chronic school absence. In 2014, the Campaign presented its Pacesetters Partner award to IMLS.
IMLS co-authored Growing Young Minds: How Museums and Libraries Create Lifelong Learners in partnership with the Campaign. It calls upon policymakers, practitioners, and parents to give all children a strong start by making full use of libraries, museums, and their staff.
AN IMLS-funded report and toolkit which describes skills children need to be successful, Museums, Libraries, and 21st Century Skills, continues to be widely used. The report underscores the critical role of museums and libraries in helping citizens build skills as information, communications and technology literacy, critical thinking, problem solving, creativity, civic literacy, and global awareness.
IMLS also supports grant projects that:
- Advance the abilities of libraries and museums to serve early learners in their communities
- Share library and museum expertise in early childhood learning with community partners engaged in working with young children
- Conduct research to further the understanding of, and advance practice in, early childhood education in informal settings.