California Forum

Universal preschool is a long way off. Libraries can help in the meantime

Library Director outlines her vision for Sacramento Libraries

Library Director, Rivkah Sass, outlines her vision for Sacramento Libraries in our community.
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Library Director, Rivkah Sass, outlines her vision for Sacramento Libraries in our community.

As a mother, a grandmother and a librarian with four decades spent working with families embedded in my DNA, there is nothing sweeter than to hear Gov. Gavin Newsom talk about universal preschool for all. I believe that children are the future, and each and every one of us has a responsibility to help their futures be all they can be.

I know the road to universal preschool is a long one to travel. Until we get there, I have a simple idea I want to share: Let the Sacramento Public Library help every child in Sacramento get ready for school.

It’s not your fault if you don’t know how the library can help. As a profession, we’ve often chosen service to the public over promotion to the public. Libraries (like middle-aged women) are invisible to some and easily overlooked. I’m asking you to take a second look and see what we have to offer. I guarantee that you’ll be surprised.


Early learning is a priority for us and it is reflected in everything we do. Our aim is to help every family be equipped with the tools to unlock their child’s learning potential from the very beginning. We want to be every family’s first stop on the pre-K road to learning. We offer free resources to everyone, long before they have access to preschool or early-learning centers.

By the time they are 5 years old – the point when we often think their education begins – a child’s brain has grown to be 90 percent the size of an adult’s brain. A tremendous amount of learning accompanies that growth and we can be there for that.

Early learning happens in little moments which add up over time. Five activities have been shown to help build a child’s readiness for reading and school. When you talk, sing, read, write and play with your child, you’re creating those moments. Parents and caregivers are crucial, and in the best position to take advantage of those many small moments, whether at the grocery store pointing out colors as you shop for produce or at the gas station watching the numbers fly by as you fill your tank. You are already doing more than you think, and the library can be your education and early learning service.

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A fun, easy and free way to access all five early-learning activities is at a

library story time

. More than a simple picture-book story, this classic library program has changed with the times and is filled with essential early-learning activities. Our children’s librarians will teach you their favorite songs, rhymes and books for you to try at home. Sacramento Public Library offers nearly 200 story times a month, and we continue to add more on the weekend, as well as bilingual and sensory story times so all families feel welcome.

Each of Sacramento Public Library’s 28 locations offer play areas for young children. They include curated collections of age-appropriate toys so families can practice sorting, counting, building and pretending, growing young minds in a safe and welcoming space.

The Sacramento Public Library helps families take learning home and on the go. Read Together Kits offer collections of books and activities featuring diverse characters, so that every child will see themselves reflected in the pages. STEM kits and Crocker Art Packs help expose young children to art and allow free family admission to the Crocker Art Museum.

Our librarians offer more than their insights into early learning. They equip and encourage parents and caregivers on how to be a child’s first teacher. They build relationships with you and your child, offer support and guidance, and make sure that fun is included in the equation.

Rivkah K. Sass is the director and CEO of the Sacramento Public Library.

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