Evan Kendrick was working in data transcription for the Metro Homicide Unit in Indianapolis when she realized she wanted to be a librarian.
“It was a tough job, and I was driving to work one day thinking, ‘I don’t know how much longer I can do this,’” Kendrick recalled. “I remembered a friend saying, ‘If you ever want to go back to school, library school might be a good fit for you.’”
With bachelors degrees in anthropology and Spanish already under her belt, she enrolled in the library science graduate program at Indiana University Bloomington. Kendrick has worked as a children’s services librarian for Pikes Peak Library District for seven years now. She talked with the Business Journal about early literacy and empowering parents to be their child’s first teacher.
Have you always wanted to work with children?
When I got out of college I was working and knew it wasn’t going to be a career for me, so I started out mentoring. There was a program set up by a college professor and his students to mentor youth who had been incarcerated. One youth [I mentored] was incarcerated at the time in a prison for children, so I would go visit her in prison. She was 15. That particular facility ended up undergoing all kinds of sanctions — bad things had happened. I had to really advocate for her a lot and it was very stressful … but it continued to help me know that I really did like working with young people.
Tell us about your work in early literacy.
I’m out in the community a lot doing workshops for parents and doing story time. The main thing we want to stress with parents is: You have everything you need to do what you need to do. [Early literacy] starts with the parents — they’re the first teacher. I empower people: ‘You’re doing great and here’s some more stuff to help you along!’
A lot of what we’re trying to do is reach the people who never come through our doors … tell them about the library, give them other tools, show them things they can do at home. We go to medical clinics and talk to people in the waiting room; we use all the ways we can reach out to people outside of the library. The way I see [early literacy] changing is we’ve learned so much more about the young brain and how fast it develops — it’s really incredible. When you tell parents about some of these things they’re just amazed. It’s really encouraging because if you’re talking to an adult about their child they’re very engaged. It’s one subject where they’re always interested.
More often than not when we’re doing outreach and parents make a suggestion that ‘It would be great if you guys did this or that’ — we’re already doing it. It’s just an opportunity to say, ‘Yes — here it is and this is how you get to it.’
Is early literacy about more than reading?
It is. We say reading is the single most important thing you can do, but there are so many other things that go into that. I tell parents, ‘You wouldn’t build a house without laying a foundation first.’ We’re making a foundation so when kids get into school they’ll have all the tools they need to help them read and learn to write.
What’s your next goal?
Last year we did a grant through the state library and the Institute of Museum and Library Services that enabled us to put together these amazing kits I created [for daycare centers], so my goal is to get these systematized so we can start utilizing them and making more connections with daycare centers. The grant was about supporting parents in early literacy through libraries and we realized a lot of that target low-income parent group that we really want to reach — they’re working. The people who are really with their kids during the day, most of the time, are childcare workers. So we wanted to empower them as professionals, giving them more tools and support. My goal is to start working more in earnest with that preschool-to-kindergarten pipeline because so many children are unprepared for kindergarten and I think there’s a lot the library can do. It’ll be hard, I think, but it’ll be worth it.
What do you like best about working in the Springs?
I love that it’s sort of a big small town. You get that city feel but you see so many familiar faces and the community is definitely there. I love going out and talking to people and telling them about the library. The library is one of those great equalizing playing fields where you mention that’s where you’re from … almost always, people light up. They love our library system so I feel great to be able to promote it to people.