Community Voices

Crime Watch: Miami-Dade public library offers a Jump Star for young readers

Many of you have written to me regarding what to do with kids and in helping them to be safe. I turned for advice to Jack Varela, public affairs officer for Miami-Dade Public Library System:

The Miami-Dade Public Library System has been stepping up efforts to reach out to children through its early literacy program.

The program, called Jump Start, reaches out to preschools, kindergartens and childcare centers via theme-related story time kits within the library’s taxing district. The program is a first-step toward introducing children with whom the library has little or no contact, while at the same time assisting the adults with whom the children do have contact, in providing access to the Miami-Dade Public Library System’s many resources.

Thus, the children are given a “jump start” on their way to becoming literate adults because they will have an association with books and the library that is positive, pleasurable and long-lasting.

This year, USA Today released a study by Central Connecticut State University of the top-10 Most Literate Cities. The study ranks cities based on data for six key indicators of their citizens’ use of literacy: booksellers, educational attainment, Internet resources, library resources, newspaper circulation and periodical publishing resources. Ten years ago, Miami ranked in the high 20s. Public libraries can play a pivotal role in changing this outcome.

Jump Start’s main goal is to bring the joy of reading to children. It accomplishes this by creating multiple story programs for children. The kits serve two age groups; babies/toddlers and preschoolers/ kindergarteners. Theme-related kit materials include 10 books, a puppet, a music CD, a flannel board story, a finger play sheet and an educational toy. They are selected by literary standards, age, muscle development and level of interest. They are then gathered into kits for easy-handling. Each kit contains enough variety of materials for either 15 or 30 minute daily story times.

Exposing babies, toddlers, preschoolers and kindergarteners to the joys of reading is important to the child’s development. Jump Start is located at the North Dade Regional Library and houses more than 80 subjects which are sent all over the county. Facilities may register for the program by contacting Jump Start at 305-375-4116.

The Miami-Dade Public Library System (MDPLS), a recipient of the National Medal for Museum and Library Service, serves as a community center and learning place where the Miami-Dade community meets to exchange ideas, learn, share, and create. The Library strives to ensure that all residents, regardless of socioeconomics, will be enriched through access to materials, technology, art and culture and programs so that they may develop the skills they need to create and produce innovations for the 21st century.

Through its 48 locations, bookmobiles, special services, website ( and MDPLS iLibrary app, the library proudly serves more than seven million annual visitors. In the more than 40 years of serving the community, the MDPLS continues to experience tremendous change and growth, evolving with the technological needs and requirements of its diverse community.

Carmen Caldwell is executive director of Citizens’ Crime Watch of Miami-Dade. Send feedback and news for this column to, or call her at 305-470-1670.