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Early Learning Center Opens In Maple Heights Library

[Photo: Stephanie Jarvis/ideastream]

Just a few minutes past 8am, a group of preschoolers begin their day with excitement, curiosity, and a little dancing. It is just their second day together in their new classroom at the Debra Ann November Early Learning campus.

But what makes the classroom unique, other than its charming students? It sits within another vital community asset – the library.

“We see the library as something we can actually utilize as an extension of the learning environment,” said Elizabeth Newman, CEO of the Centers for Family and Children and Circle Health Services. “So you think of a preschool classroom, and you think about the materials and what’s available in that classroom. Well, imagine if right outside the door, you have a whole library and you have a library with a section that’s geared toward children and their families.”

Housed under the same roof as the Maple Heights Branch of the Cuyahoga County Public Library, Newman says the early learning center is Ohio’s first to be located within a library.

“I was more than thrilled when I found out they were going to do this first prototype if you will, of putting this kind of preschool in a library,” said Maple Heights Mayor Annette Blackwell. “So when they chose Maple Heights, I thought -- they made the right choice. Perfect.”

Mayor Blackwell says she’s excited for the classroom-library collaboration and what it could mean to a city like Maple Heights.

“I’ll be very honest with you. Maple Heights is a hard city. It’s a hard city to lead as the mayor, because while we’re inner-ring suburbs, we have a lot of the big city problems. We have a mix. We do have some people living below the poverty line here in Maple Heights. And I understand as a mother of three and grandmother of four, to change that it really begins with literacy -- the ability to read, to comprehend, to go on to higher education. So I think with the population changing in Maple Heights, having some of the same struggles as some bigger cities, it was a great place to start.”

Newman says the Centers identified Maple Heights as an underserved area as they were looking for other locations to open another preschool.

“It was starting to talk to the Library that identified a space in their Maple Heights Branch…and honestly the stars aligned.”

The first classroom opened its doors on Monday, with the capacity to hold twenty students. Plans are in place to open two more classrooms in the coming months.

“We talk a lot about the first 2,000 days of life, which is roughly the time between birth and the start of kindergarten,” said Newman. “And that’s a really critical timeframe for children, because about 90 percent of their brain will develop and that creates the path for their learning today but also their future. So much of our work focuses on literacy and family literacy, and now we have the whole library at our disposal not only for the children that we serve but for their entire family. So it takes our family engagement to a new place.”

Additional Information: Sound of Ideas Conversation: Early Learning Center Opens In Maple Heights Library


stephanie.jarvis@ideastream.org | 216-916-6340