Library brings early literacy services to MetroHealth's WIC office
On a recent visit to the WIC (Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children) office at the Severance MetroHealth Center, Youth Services Associate Danielle Maynard saw one of her regulars from the Noble Neighborhood branch library. “It was wonderful,” she said, describing “the sheer delight in the eyes of a young patron who couldn't contain their excitement when they spotted Coco, the Storytime bear, making a special appearance outside the library.”
Maynard, and Coco, were at the WIC office to provide early literacy outreach services to the parents and children in the waiting room. Those services include reading books, playing games, and distributing literacy resources (“Words to Grow On” kits) while parents wait with their children for WIC services.
WIC is a federal nutrition program designed to help low-income pregnant and breastfeeding women, and children younger than 5.
“The waiting room of the WIC office at the MetroHealth building in Cleveland Heights is a great place for library outreach,” said Maynard, “because it provides a direct way to reach a population who can greatly benefit from the library’s outreach services.”
Maynard was inspired to create the outreach program after learning of the new WIC office, and hearing of successful “waiting room storytimes” at a local pediatrician’s office. After receiving permission from MetroHealth, she initiated weekly visits to the clinic. Positive feedback from WIC staff fueled Heights Libraries’ desire to expand outreach.
Maynard and other Heights Libraries staff visit the office twice a week, engaging with 15–26 people per visit. Beyond making waiting times for families more enjoyable, the initiative strengthens the library’s connection to families and gives valuable insights into their needs.
“I've witnessed the waiting room transform from tears and restlessness to singing and laughter,” Maynard said. “One mother reached out to the Noble library afterward seeking more successful recommendations for her struggling reader, while another was overjoyed with the activity cards and board books she received, saying they were exactly what she needed for her son. And, believe it or not, another family wanted to know when we'd be back, just to catch up with me and Coco—no WIC appointment necessary!”
The WIC program’s mission to provide food, nutrition counseling, and access to health services for low-income women and their young children dovetails with the library’s mission to provide early literacy services to young children.
“Families are at WIC to support their children's well-being,” said Maynard, “and we want to be right there with them. By sharing information, resources, and 'Words to Grow On' kits, we're helping families nurture early literacy skills during those important first five years of a child's life.”
Sheryl Banks is the communications manager for the Cleveland Heights-University Heights Public Library System.