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The new work we get to do

Child holding hands with a mother and father kneeling.The Ypsilanti District Library, with the Library of Michigan, the Midwest Collaborative for Library Services, and HighScope, will expand our early literacy text messaging service, TALK: Text and Learn for Kindergarten, to reach parents of children birth through five years old across Michigan and Indiana. We can do this with the help of a $242,640 National Leadership Grant for Libraries award from the Institute of Museum and Library Services.

“More parents will feel empowered, recognizing themselves as their child’s first and best teacher,” said YDL Director Lisa Hoenig. “TALK helps parents have more frequent, quality interactions with their kids that lead to early learning.  The more broadly we can offer the service, the more children will benefit and succeed in school.”

This project will develop a new, more scalable platform for the already vetted texts and service model. It also develops a promotional toolkit, partnerships toolkit, list of best practices, and professional development training to help libraries across Michigan and Indiana with implementation.

“Of the 38 projects that were funded, we are one of the only public libraries,” said Hoenig. “It shows the value of the service we’ve developed and the hard work of our staff to build partnerships and put together a winning application.”

The plan will be completed in phases with a number of deliverables to make the program easily adapted for libraries across Michigan and Indiana. These include a database of fully evaluated, shareable text messages in English and Spanish, shareable and customizable publicity materials, and a user guide for libraries that opt in. By the end of year three, we will work to ensure these resources could be used successfully in any library in the U.S.

As one of the grant reviewers said, “This project is timely and has wide national impact.”

It will be particularly helpful for families who need activities they can use while the library buildings are closed.

“We can’t see families at the library for storytime, so getting them tips and activities they can use to continue to work on school readiness skills at home is really important,” said Jodi Krahnke, head of Youth Services who oversees YDL’s involvement in the TALK program.

Next Steps
  • Convening our advisory committee
  • Working with MCLS to redevelop the message distribution platform and testing in Washtenaw County
  • Working with Willard Library to test a rollout in the Battle Creek area.
About TALK

TALK is designed to empower parents to improve their child’s school readiness by sending texts with activity suggestions that parents can do with their children. It was developed and piloted from 2017-2020 in Washtenaw County, thanks to an IMLS Library Services and Technology Act grant.

Singing, talking, and playing with babies and young children builds the skills they need to do well in school. Research shows the more words children hear by the time they enter kindergarten, the more likely they are to succeed. The TALK text messages suggest simple activities parents can try at home with their child. Activities don’t require any special materials. Most take less than 20 minutes to complete, but the benefits last a lifetime. Sign up at

Grant Details


Grant Period: 

Three (3) years

Grant Amount: 



National Leadership Grants for Libraries

Project Partners:

  • Library of Michigan
  • Midwest Collaborative for Library Services
  • HighScope
About IMLS

The Institute of Museum and Library Services is the primary source of federal support for the nation’s libraries and museums. We advance, support, and empower America’s museums, libraries, and related organizations through grantmaking, research, and policy development. Our vision is a nation where museums and libraries work together to transform the lives of individuals and communities. To learn more, visit and follow us on Facebook and Twitter.