What do you know about the Library’s presence in your community and school? Did your child come home this year excited about a visit from a local Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh staff member? If you’re a Pittsburgh Public School parent, then chances are, the visit was from a member of our BLAST (Bringing Schools and Libraries Together) team. BLAST visits nearly two dozen PPS schools from September to June to deliver interactive read alouds, hands on programming, and activities to help develop and foster a love of reading in elementary school children.
In 2016, BLAST partnered with the Buhl Foundation to create specialized programming designed for third grade students in PPS Northside Schools. With the recent renewal of this partnership and a generous grant from the Buhl Foundation for the third year in a row, we think it’s the perfect time to share with you a little about the BLAST Northside Project.
Over the course of the 2017 – 2018 school year, BLAST Outreach Specialists and Children’s Librarians at CLP – Woods Run and CLP – Allegheny had monthly visits with third graders at PPS Allegheny, PPS King, PPS Manchester, PPS Morrow, and PPS Spring Hill. All of the classes that participated in the program received a classroom set of 30 books spanning a wide range of genres, interests, and reading levels. BLAST Outreach Specialists visited each classroom five times throughout the year to encourage student engagement with the books by reading select titles aloud. Students were given an opportunity to explore their classroom collections during independent and group reading time. Did your third grader bring home a book with a BLAST Northside sticker inside? All participating students chose a title (or two) from the classroom set that they were interested in exploring further. In March and May, students were given copies of the books they chose.
One favorite component of the BLAST Northside program was the library field trips to Northside CLP branches. Third grade students at PPS Allegheny, PPS King, PPS Manchester, and PPS Spring Hill visited CLP – Allegheny three times during the year, and students at PPS Morrow visited CLP – Woods Run. While at the library students explored various artistic avenues centered on read alouds from their classroom book collections. From painting self-portraits to origami art to tissue paper collages, all students participated in multiple opportunities to express themselves. Classroom visits by BLAST Outreach Specialists also included art exploration. All student projects were collected and added to a class book. The class books were on display during special after hours celebrations at CLP – Allegheny and CLP – Woods Run, and then given to third grade teachers.
During the 2017 – 2018 school year, 249 third graders participated in the BLAST Northside Project. Of these 249 students, 137 received library cards. At the after hours celebrations in May, 20 families came out to celebrate and learn about the project.
We are very excited to begin another year with the BLAST Northside Project, and to continue to create and support a community of readers on Pittsburgh’s Northside and beyond. If you are a parent of an upcoming PPS third grader and would like to learn more about how you can support the BLAST Northside Project, look for BLAST on your school’s PSCC calendar. Not a parent of a PPS Northside student? You can find out if your school participates in BLAST programming by talking with your principal, third grade teachers, or school librarian. If you’d like for BLAST to visit your child’s PPS school, you can advocate for us by reaching out to your school principal.
*This post was a collaborative effort by Zia and Jessie, BLAST Outreach Specialists