Celebrating 20 years of A+ Partners in Education

A crowd of fifth-graders dressed in colorful costumes talk excitedly while at Battle of the Books 2022.
Fifth graders excited for Battle of the Books 2022 at Merriweather Post Pavilion.

by Katie DiSalvo-Thronson

In the fall of 2002, Howard County Public School System and Howard County Library System formed A+ Partners in Education to expand the educational opportunities and enhance the academic achievement of every Howard County student. It was one of the first systemwide school and public library partnerships in the nation.

We are proud to celebrate 20 years of collaboration. Together we have furthered students’ academic success, enhanced their love of reading and learning, and forged a connection to libraries that will serve them their whole lives.

Right from the start
The library is integrated into student’s experiences from the beginning of their academic career. Kindergarten, Here We Come prepares and inspires incoming kindergarteners and gives them a chance to tour a school bus. Then, every kindergarten class takes a field trip to the library for a class, a tour, and a friendly connection to this important family resource. We are proud to add another point of early connection: next year, the HCLS mobile unit will visit every HCPSS Pre-K to engage students and parents!

Connecting to serve students
Every school has a dedicated HCLS liaison, and our educators and staffs collaborate to offer hundreds of school-based HCLS classes and events that serve those school communities. Two great examples of that work: supporting National History Day student projects, and facilitating parent and student engagement at Deep Run Elementary School (both initiatives featured in the current issue of Source, our award-winning publication). We also collaborate on summer reading lists and promotion, to help all students read and continue to learn all summer.

Our systems are connected, too! Did you know every HCPSS student has an account with the library system, built right into the student portal, hcpss.me? With one click, students can access all online library resources and reserve books at HCLS branches. In the last year, students borrowed 80,337 books, e-books, and other resources on A+ accounts.

A+ Partners also connect to offer students free support via Brainfuse: last year, HCPSS students received 12,164 free online tutoring and test prep sessions and used Brainfuse study tools 52,355 times!

A+ Makes Learning Fun
In Battle of the Books, students experience reading as dynamic, social, and exciting. Teams of fifth graders read 10-14 titles over a year and practice answering questions about each book in a competition with pun-ny teamwork, costumes, and a dance party! Affectionately referred to as BOB, the contest grew from one high school gym to six sites. This year, we celebrated with 1,234 students at Merriweather Post Pavilion.

HCLS also sponsors the local competition of the Scripps National Spelling Bee. More than 7,000 students from 41 HCPSS schools participated last year alone. Saketh Sundar, one of the historic Octo-champs of the National Spelling Bee, was a four-time winner of the HCLS Spelling Bee!

More Outreach, Equity & Impact
HCLS is deeply grateful to the leadership of HCPSS, library instructors, and school-based educators, staff, parents, and volunteers who help us serve children through this partnership.

We look ahead with energy and commitment. HCLS is dedicated to strategic, collaborative work and additional outreach and engagement with schools to help every student and their family enjoy increased opportunity and academic success with library resources. Whether as a volunteer, school leader, or prospective sponsor, we welcome you to reach out and join us in this important work.

Here’s to 20 more years!

Katie is the Community Education and Engagement Manager for HCLS. She loves people, the big questions, the woods, and chocolate.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s