For Release: Immediately
Department of External Affairs
Free Library of Philadelphia
1901 Vine Street
Philadelphia, PA 19103-1189
(215) 567-7710
FAX (215) 567-7850
Contact: Communications and Development
For Release: Immediately
Contact: Communications and Development


The largest corporate grant ever received by the Free Library will support literacy in early-learning spaces.

PHILADELPHIA—The Free Library of Philadelphia is honored to receive the largest corporate grant in its history from the Vanguard Strong Start for Kids Program™. The $3 million grant over three years—aims to improve early literacy and language development in low-income communities by partnering with local childcare sites. Guided by research showing that parent and caregiver involvement is essential for early literacy, this initiative will provide intensive professional development to childcare staff, create literacy spaces in classrooms, and engage families using a proven method of parent ambassadors. Neighborhood libraries will act as hubs for the participating childcare sites in their communities.

This initiative strongly aligns with the Library’s strategic goals to help children be school-ready and to encourage family-based literacy. Through its work as the backbone organization of Read by 4th, which is working to increase the number of students reading on grade-level by 4th grade, and with neighborhood ambassadors as part of the Words at Play Vocabulary Initiative, the Library has committed staff and resources to addressing the needs of the city’s families and children.  Working in high-need communities, many of which also have a large population of dual-language learners, this new program will target under-resourced childcare sites that have received one or two Keystone STARS, a program of Pennsylvania’s Office of Child Development and Early Learning (OCDEL) that serves as Pennsylvania’s Quality Rating and Improvement System (PQRIS).  It will begin with 12 childcare sites this year, adding sites over the course of the three-year grant to ultimately reach a total of 44 sites. Each childcare site will be matched with a neighborhood library in its community: Cecil B. Moore, Lillian Marrero, and Logan libraries in North Philadelphia; Kingsessing Library in Southwest Philadelphia; Lucien E. Blackwell West Philadelphia Regional Library; Whitman Library in South Philadelphia; and Wyoming Library in Feltonville.

“We are so grateful to Vanguard for furthering the Free Library’s efforts to bolster early literacy across our city and get children reading on grade level, which is so crucial to our city’s future” said Free Library President and Director Siobhan A. Reardon. “Our staff believes all children are born to read, and libraries must innovate to support communities beyond the walls of our buildings. Vanguard’s grant greatly expands the Free Library’s ability to serve as a civic hub that binds neighborhoods together.”

“We are thrilled to be able to partner with the Free Library and their network of neighborhood libraries and childcare centers to improve literacy instruction throughout Philadelphia,” said Carra Cote-Ackah, Director of Vanguard’s Community Stewardship efforts. “Reading is such an integral part of a child’s early education and we’re proud to help the Free Library in providing the essential resources children need to spark a lifelong passion for reading and learning.

Participating childcare sites will bring groups to their library for storytimes and other early-literacy activities, and all participating children will be given library cards, with the hope of connecting more families to the vast services neighborhood libraries offer.  As part of the program, parent ambassadors will reach out to families to encourage participation. In addition, bilingual books and literacy toys will be shared with families, to equip them to create literacy development and pre-literacy play opportunities at home.

Within each childcare site, high-quality early-childhood outreach specialists will support teachers by providing technical assistance and presenting professional development workshops. Consultants for early childhood and dual-language learners will also serve on the project team. At each site, the program will create book nooks—reading spaces with a story-circle rug, bookshelves, high-quality and age-appropriate books, and early-literacy prompts such as puppets, story cubes, and other manipulatives that facilitate interactive storytelling experiences. A primary goal of the program is for childcare providers to improve quality in literacy instruction by implementing more literacy activities and early-literacy learning opportunities into their daily practice, as well as to make families more engaged with the learning happening in the childcare setting.

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About the Free Library of Philadelphia
The Free Library of Philadelphia system, with 54 locations and the Rosenbach, advances literacy, guides learning, and inspires curiosity with millions of digital and physical materials; 25,000 yearly programs and workshops; free public computers and extensive Wi-Fi, including neighborhood Hotspots; and rich special collections, including  those at Parkway Central Library and at the Rosenbach. With more than 6 million in-person visits and millions more online annually, the Free Library and the Rosenbach are among the most widely used educational and cultural institutions in Philadelphia and boast a worldwide impact.

About Vanguard Strong Start for Kids Program
The Vanguard Strong Start for Kids Program™ was established in 2015 to harness the collective power of charitable giving by Vanguard and our crew (Vanguard employees). The program provides funding and volunteer hours to give children the opportunity to grow, thrive, and learn, with a focus on improving kindergarten readiness for children growing up in poverty in Vanguard’s three domestic locations: Pennsylvania, Arizona, and North Carolina.



Department of External Affairs, Free Library of Philadelphia, 1901 Vine Street, Philadelphia, PA 19103-1189
(215) 567-7710, FAX (215) 567-7850