Mid-Continent Public Library developed a mobile early literacy unit — aptly named the Reading Rocket — after recognizing the challenges of families living in “transportation deserts,” or areas where public transportation is not easily accessible and families may not be able to get to the Library during its business hours, or at all. Although all services provided by the Library are free and open to anyone, families in these areas had not been able to take advantage of them because of the lack of transportation, and they often did not have the funds to supplement the educational resources on their own.
As part of this, the Library offers regular storytimes, as well as programs like 1000 Books Before Kindergarten and Summer Learning Program, which incorporate 10 key activities that build early literacy skills: talking, listening, singing, rhyming, reading, sharing, writing, creating, playing and imagining. Now, a team of crewmembers brings these lessons out into the community via the Reading Rocket, which has been themed around illustrations in the Library’s signature children’s book, Grow A Reader: An Interplanetary Tale, written by Bridget Heos and illustrated by Dan Regan. The book tells the story of Marty the Martian — the Library’s mascot — whose preferred form of transportation is the Reading Rocket.
The Rocket, sometimes referred to as Grow A Reader to Go, is designed to allow space for storytimes both inside and out (via an external TV) and makes regularly scheduled stops at neighborhoods, schools and daycare providers. Since February 2017, the Rocket has had 1,075 visitors onboard.
While generous grants from the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation and Royals Charities have played a major role in the outfitting of the Rocket, gifts from individuals go a long way in supporting this unique early literacy and outreach program. To learn more about how you can support the Reading Rocket and other initiatives at Mid-Continent Public Library, visit mymcpl.org/donate.