Being fluent in the digital space is helpful, if not necessary, today and being behind is a disadvantage. That’s why the Library Foundation supports programs that not only teach important job skills like coding, but also expand internet access to ensure kids in our community can get online today. Closing the digital divide in our county is a smart investment and an important part of our work.
At the library, the fun starts when school lets out. Our wildly popular Coding 101 program gives kids ages 10–14 the chance to learn basic coding skills and take home a free Chromebook. We also provide t-shirts and pizza! Kids can also learn chess from the pros at the St. Louis Chess Club thanks to support from the Library Foundation, which helps to fund the instructors and provide chess sets.
Gone are the days of card catalogs and encyclopedias. Today, doing research and homework means getting online, and students without internet access at home face long waits for library computers and often struggle to keep up with school assignments. The Foundation secured funding for a new pilot program that allows students at Ritenour High School to borrow Wi-Fi hotspots for the 2019–20 school year. With more than 250 people on the waiting list, there is a significant and ongoing need for this program.
In an effort to help bridge the digital divide and keep kids learning during the COVID-19 pandemic, the Foundation provided PBS Kids Playtime Pads, pre-loaded with educational content, at two local school districts. The devices provide accessible educational content, including video clips, songs, educational games and apps, without an internet connection.