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Resources for Raising Readers and Spaces for Building Connections at PLA 2024

by Jasmin Avila, Children’s Librarian, Newport Beach (CA) Public Library, PLA 2024 Scholarship Recipient on May 20, 2024

PLA 2024 was truly the place for all things public libraries! With a range of relevant topics and opportunities to interact with public library workers across the country; PLA provided a unique, necessary and meaningful space to connect with others and spark new solutions.

One of many programs I found valuable was “The Science of Reading in Public Libraries: Supporting Elementary-Age Readers”. In this session presenters from Chicago Public Library and San Francisco Public Library discussed how low-level literacy impacts students during childhood and into adulthood. In childhood low reading skills can increase poor performance in school, fuel negative self-esteem and affect social behavior. In adulthood these reading setbacks ripple out in connection to higher unemployment rates, lower income levels and increased incarceration rates. Often children who fall behind will struggle to catch up and reading intervention programs can be costly and difficult to access making these gaps and implications even greater.

During the presentation, we learned how both library systems used the Science of Reading to address these implications and create accessible reading interventions to support struggling readers. Using Dr. Hollis Scarborough’s Reading Rope, the speakers broke down the different elements of reading and how those components work individually as well as together to develop reading comprehension. The visual of a rope demonstrates how when children are learning to read they are combining two main skills of sounding out words and of understanding what they mean. By addressing each of these skills through their initiatives, they have created accessible tools to support readers and families.

William Alvites, Learning Differences Librarian, and Ruben Balderas, Early Learning Coordinator, from San Francisco Public Library shared how the FOG (Free Orton-Gillingham) program implemented in 2016 offers highly structured sequential instruction based on the Science of Reading and the Orton-Gillingham methodology. This methodology is gold standard and can typically be up to $200 an hour, however SFPL offers this program for free. The program has seen great success and high demand, with students gaining an average of half a grade level after about 3 months. The program is facilitated by volunteers who are recruited and trained to become effective tutors before they are matched with students.

Katie Eckert, Early Learning Specialist, and Lori Frumkin, Senior Project Manager, from Chicago Public Library shared about the Jump Into Reading initiative focused on supporting new and struggling readers and their caregivers as they transition from developing pre-literacy skills to becoming fluent readers. Through local partnerships, collections focusing on decodable books, programs like beginner reader storytime, Grab and Go kits focused on phonological awareness and the creation of robust informational resources that outline the Science of Reading; they created multiple access points for families to be equipped with the tools to build and strengthen reading skills.

These two initiatives provide excellent examples of how public libraries are addressing reading decline and building strong foundations for lifelong learning. In addition to sessions like this I found tremendous value from the keynote speakers and connections with fellow attendees. No matter what your role is at your library or where you are in your career, you will find something of value at PLA. Thank you to the generous supporters who funded the scholarships that made these experiences and connections possible.


Alvites, William., Balderas, Ruben., Eckert, Katie., Frumkin, Lori.  “The Science of Reading in Public Libraries: Supporting Elementary-Age Readers.” PLA 2024 Program, Greater Columbus Convention Center, Columbus, OH, April 3, 2024.

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