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Butte County Library Partners with First 5 Commission on ELF Initiative

In winter 2006, Butte County Library launched ELF, the Early Learning with Families (ELF) @ Your Library program, a California State Library initiative funded with Library Services and Technology Act grant funds.  By spring 2006 Derek Wolfgram, Butte County’s Library Director, proclaimed the ELF Initiative “wildly successful.”  

Heather Tovey, Senior Library Assistant, Children's Services, Butte County Library.
[Photo courtesy of Bill Husa, Chico Enterprise Record]

ELF helps libraries enhance their services for families with very young children by building upon the most promising early literacy and learning practices. ELF, recognizing that a child’s parent or primary caregiver is the child’s first and most powerful teacher, builds partnerships between families, caregivers, community agencies, and library professionals where information is shared, where family expertise and diversity are valued; and where libraries serve as facilitators of families’ self-discovery and mastery.  In addition, ELF libraries are encouraged to develop partnerships between their own Children’s Services and Literacy Services – creating powerful collaborative relationships that support families’ full range of learning and literacy needs.

In Butte County, the ELF initiative has enabled the Butte team to launch several new programs for babies, their parents and caregivers, and to expand the library’s parent and baby resource collections.  In addition, Butte’s branches now offer more family-friendly environments complete with mounted giggle mirrors and wall puzzles, décor that engages inquisitive toddlers so busy moms and dads can more easily peruse and check-out library materials. Butte County families, the community in general, and the library’s busy staff all love the new library programs and services for young children.

First 5 Grant to fund Butte County’s ELF activities

From ELF’s inception at the California State Library, the California First 5 Children and Families Commission has been interested in the ELF initiative and has been an official statewide partner. Now, Butte County’s own First 5 Commission, to illustrate its support, has awarded a grant to the Butte County Library for its ELF program.

The First 5 Grant will fund ELF and family literacy activities through the Butte County Library for the next three years, further acknowledging the value of the collaboration between Children's Services and Literacy Services.  ELF programs will be expanded to provide more frequent activities while services will be offered at more branches throughout the county. In addition, funds have been earmarked for increased outreach to families who would benefit from ELF, as well as to adults with small children who are interested in improving their own basic reading and writing skills.  As parents and caregivers become more literate, they also become better able to support their child’s success through engagement with language and books.

“Reaching out” across the community

Heather Tovey, Senior Library Assistant in Children’s Services, describes the  ELF program at the Butte County Library as a “ friendly reaching out” across the community. And Tovey is right.  Because of ELF, Butte’s families are coming together with community specialists and other family agencies at the library to strengthen the early learning needs of the county’s youngest citizens.  The important result - families in Butte County benefit.

For more information about the Butte County Library’s Early Learning with Families program please contact Heather Tovey, Senior Library Assistant, Children’s Services at 530-891-2762 or or Carey Gross, Library Literacy Specialist at 530-538-7198 or

For more information about the statewide Early Learning with Families initiative please contact Suzanne Flint, Library Programs Consultant at 916-651-9796 or, or Judy Klikun, Statewide ELF Project Coordinator at 916-446-6378 or





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