Vanguard Donates $3 Million to Boost Literacy for Our Littlest Learners

By Julie B. Mon, May 14, 2018

TheFree Library is teeming with opportunities for little ones to get cozy with letters, words, and books from the earliest ages. Our storytimes for babies, toddlers, and preschoolers incorporate not only reading, but singing, dancing, counting, and playing. Our Read by 4th campaign has helped install "book nooks" in barbershops, laundromats, and other businesses across the city. Research shows that to support literacy from the get go, we have to treat the whole world like an open book.

We are now excited to share a new initiative that continues to take our drive for early literacy beyond the Free Library’s walls. Thanks to a $3 million grant from the Vanguard Strong Start for Kids Program™—the largest corporate grant in the Free Library’s history—we will soon kick off a partnership with childcare programs in low-income communities, aiming to improve early literacy and language development. 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. 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 support families in becoming more engaged with the learning that is happening in a childcare setting.

Neighborhood libraries will act as hubs for the participating childcare sites in their communities. Workshops will be held at each library to provide professional development and a space for child care staff to meet others from nearby programs. Participating childcare programs may 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.  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.

This initiative strongly aligns with the Free Library’s strategic goals to help children be school-ready and to encourage family-based literacy. The first year of this project will focus on Keystone STARS (Standards, Training/Professional Development, Assistance, Resources, and Support) 1 and 2 childcare sites in the 19121 and 19148 ZIP codes. Each childcare site will be matched with a neighborhood library in its community.

Sites interested in participating should contact the Free Library’s Youth Services and Programs office at earlylearning@freelibrary.org or 215-686-5372.


The Vanguard Strong Start for Kids Program™ is dedicated to helping provide children the opportunity to grow, thrive, and learn in communities near each of Vanguard’s major U.S. sites. The Initiative is funded through a combination of Vanguard corporate gifts and Vanguard employee gifts from the company’s annual giving campaign.

The Free Library supports early literacy through singing-and-dancing storytimes, book nooks in businesses across the city, and now a new partnership with local childcare programs in high-need communities.
The Free Library supports early literacy through singing-and-dancing storytimes, book nooks in businesses across the city, and now a new partnership with local childcare programs in high-need communities.
Read by 4th
Read by 4th
Keystone STARS
Keystone STARS

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