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Family Math Throughout COVID: Pima County Public Library

Photo Credit: PBS SoCal

COVID-19 forced us all to make big changes, some of which are going to continue beyond the pandemic. This six-part blog series asks six different Family Math organizations how they continued to serve families during the pandemic and what they’ll keep moving forward.

What is Family Math? Family Math is an emerging movement to promote math activities within the context of family relationships and everyday life, from the grocery store to the playground, during breakfast, bath time or bedtime. The practices help young children strengthen their math skills and feel enthusiastic and confident. Family Math also empowers parents, organizations and early educators with knowledge, tools, and resources that help them feel excited about introducing and exploring mathematical concepts.

This is blog post one of six, and comes from Kendra Davey at Pima County Public Library in Tucson, Arizona. The library’s mission is to transform lives by educating, inspiring, and connecting people. Learn more:

How did your organization support Family Math before COVID-19? 

Family math was a pretty new concept prior to COVID-19. The program with the most Family Math content was (and still is) “Ready, Set, School!” an eight-week school readiness program for four- and five-year-olds and their caregivers. We piloted the program at five library branches, and we were set to expand that system-wide during the fall of 2020. We were also just beginning to explore how to add more early math content into our preschool storytime program.

How did you adjust and adapt for COVID-19? 

“Ready, Set, School!” was the first program to change from an in-person format to a virtual format. Since many libraries across the country were offering virtual storytimes on YouTube, we decided that the best way to serve our community would be through a virtual “Ready, Set, School!” program. I started that program in April when our libraries were completely closed. We were able to expand the program to offer it in Spanish and English.
We decided to use Facebook live since many parents already have Facebook accounts and are familiar with it. That was before everyone in the world learned how to use Zoom. We were able to start offering curbside service in May of 2020. Since families were not able to come in and browse the collection, we started a new “bookbundle” service. Library staff selected about ten picture books, readers, and early chapter books so families could easily check out a bundle of books. That was very popular. 

In the fall, we started a new “Learn at Home” service. We redesigned our website to make it easier for families to find resources to help their children with learning at home either through homeschool or virtual school. We also provided grab-n-go activities kits that included the supplies for an activity as well as a tie-in to Math, Reading, Social Studies, and Science. All grab-n-go activities were available in English and Spanish. We have put together 35,200 activity kits!

What were some of your organization’s bright spots during COVID-19? 

One of the bright spots for us was the huge amount of food that we were able to provide to our families. Pre-COVID, we offered after-school snack programs and summer meal programs in partnership with our community food bank and several of the school districts. Since those partnerships were already in place, we were very quickly able to expand those programs to all of our branches as well as increase the amount of food we were able to provide.

What changes will you keep as you move forward? What are you looking forward to post-COVID? 

We will keep offering “Ready, Set, School!” virtually as well as in-person. Although we usually on had 10-15 families join live, the views for some of the programs were up to 800-900 views after a month. I think this is a great way to support families who have variable work schedules and can’t come in to the library during regular programing hours. I also heard anecdotally that some kids would watch the program live and then re-watch it several times during the week, which is a great way to reinforce the learning!

We were also able to create a new staff training focused on early math and we will be increasing the early math content in all of our early education programming.

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Pima County Public Library
Pima County Public Library

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