Early Learning BLAST and Pittsburgh Public School’s Head Start Supplemental Assistance Program

In order to provide equitable early literacy support and increase access to library services and early learning expertise, EL BLAST works in partnership with Pittsburgh Public Schools Early Childhood Education Programs to deliver literacy rich storytimes to preschool classrooms that receive Head Start Supplemental Assistance Program (HSSAP) funding. EL BLAST Specialists model best practices in Talking, Singing, Reading, Writing and Playing with young children, all while making early literacy development through reading FUN!

Once a center receives HSSAP funding, it becomes an EL BLAST outreach site, which means that each funded classroom will receive a monthly storytime program. This fun, early literacy program connects with the current curriculum that is used by all of the centers that receive funding through Pittsburgh Public Schools. Included in the program and visit is a giveaway book for the classroom’s book collection and a teacher resource paper that provides the classroom educators with several related books, a vocabulary word, early literacy tips, and ideas for extension activities that align with the PA Early Learning Standards.

To promote family engagement, a small handout is sent home for the child’s parents or caregivers. These handouts list the books that the BLAST Specialist read during storytime, the vocabulary word that was highlighted, and “Reading Readiness Tips” that help parents develop early literacy skills in their children during everyday interactions.

Developmentally appropriate books used in programs and for addition to classroom collections are selected based on currency (published within the last year or two), relevancy to the curriculum topic, and diversity and accuracy of characters’ identities. EL BLAST Specialists also include props, instruments, and appropriate technology to enhance the storytime and correspond with the curriculum topic. Many of these materials, such as scarves or shaker eggs, are already part of the classroom inventory, so teachers can also implement the activities that are shared with the children.

EL BLAST keeps all of these best practices in mind when designing each monthly program in order to create early literacy experiences that are developmentally appropriate, enriching, and most of all, engaging and fun for children and adults. The Library believes that it’s never too early to build a lifelong love of reading.

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