The Michelle Obama Neighborhood Library in North Long Beach has been awarded $250,000 in federal funding to expand early childhood education and improve childhood literacy.

Rep. Nanette Diaz Barragán (CA-44) secured the funds for the library as part of community project funding

Helping to fund the effort were dollars from the the 2022 Consolidated Appropriations Act, which President Biden signed into law in March, a resolution that allows for money to go directly to what is needed in communities, according to a press release.

On Thursday, Aug. 18, the congresswoman visited the library to celebrate the funding and presented the check to Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia, Vice Mayor Rex Richardson, library staff, community leaders and supporters.

“It’s the first time that the library has got federal funding in this way,” said Cathy De Leon, director of the Library Services Department in Long Beach, “directly from a congressional appropriation so that was really exciting for us to hear.”

Since its opening in 2016, the Michelle Obama Neighborhood Library has been a beacon of community and gathering for the North Long Beach community, De Leon said, because it is one of the only libraries in the northern part of the city.

  • Congresswoman Barragán at the Michelle Obama Neighborhood Library on Thursday,...

Congresswoman Barragán at the Michelle Obama Neighborhood Library on Thursday, Aug. 18. (Photo by Christina Merino, Press-Telegram/SCNG)

“One of the things I’m excited about that this grant money will provide is going to be expanding early childhood education and we know there’s a gap in students if they don’t get that early education,” said Barragán at the event.

Barragán shared how her childhood experience of Spanish being her first language and not having the ability to do early childhood education caused her to feel behind in school.

That is why picking a public library to provide funding to was a priority because it would help children in her District gain access to that preparation she didn’t have growing up, she said.

“That was the motivation, picking something that was going to help the community that would invest in our kids’ early childhood education,” Congresswoman Barragán said later in an interview.

She also thanked the staff at the library for their work and dedication to serving the diverse community that utilizes the facility and programs.

“It’s not often that you have a member that really believes and cares about public libraries which are very important for our community,” said Mayor Garcia at the event.

“This library serves a very diverse population, and the kids and families that are coming here speak all languages – Spanish, Khmer, Tagalog, and to have the resources to ensure that all families can learn is really critical,” he said.

Along with providing early childhood education to the community, the library will become a hub for the “Dive into Learning” early literacy program offered at various Long Beach library locations, said De Leon.

The funding will also help with enrichment programs, said De Leon, and parent workshops, book giveaways, adding to the library’s Spanish, Khmer, Tagalog, and multi-lingual book collections and resources to reflect the community while increasing community outreach.

“Maybe one of these days we could actually get Michelle Obama to come out and visit and read to the students as part of this program,” said Congresswoman Barragán. “But this really is about investing in our youth and in our young people early on to get that early start.”

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