1998 Finalist
Johnson County, Kansas
Innovations in American Government Awards
Innovations in American Government Awards

In Johnson County, Kansas, approximately 60 percent of the children under the age of five spend their days under the care of someone other than a family member. Kansas has made great strides in licensing daycare providers who operate out of their home. However, one shortcoming has been that laws and licensing make it difficult for providers to bring children to the library for programs and books. With television becoming a dominant part of children's lives, these kinds of activities and learning opportunities are increasingly important.

Books to Grow is a program that allows daycare providers to use pre-planned packages of educational materials. In Johnson County, the local library puts together Books to Grow bags that contain five picture books, an audiotape, a videotape and a folder of activities, finger plays and craft ideas. Each bag centers on a certain theme that is appropriate for preschool-aged children, such as dinosaurs or bugs.

Daycare providers can call ahead of time to reserve the desired kit and designate which branch of the library branch is closest to them. The ability to reserve kits ahead of time allows providers to create lesson plans in which Books to Grow can be combined with other daytime activities, and allows them to bring the library into their daycare facility.

These activities enable providers who may otherwise be unfamiliar with the developmental stages of preschool and early elementary-aged children to add constructive educational aspects to their daycare programs. In the first two years of operation, Books to Grow kits were checked out 1,166 times. This motivated the program to increase its catalogue from 40 to 104 kits.

After using these kits, providers are asked to fill out evaluation forms to provide feedback to the program. The feedback has been positive. Comments like "more variety and experience than I could offer" and "My day care children are advancing at a rapid rate due to these hands-on activities!" have been common.