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SPARK kids and Parent Partners attend a graduation
Start Smart with SPARK

Stark Library's reading and readiness program leads children on the path to success.

Here at Stark Library, we believe in investing in our community’s greatest asset—our children. Strong children equal strong communities; that’s why we believe it takes a village to build a brighter tomorrow. The Library is an essential part of that village—where all are welcomed, encouraged, and celebrated.

Julia Shaheen“SPARK is just one of the many ways the Library connects families with the tools and resources they need to help their children Start Smart.” - Julia Shaheen, Literacy Manager

With changing times, expectations, and technologies, we’re all expected to know more, do more, and be more—it can be difficult to keep up. This skill-gap can start as early as kindergarten, putting nearly half of children behind before they even start!

Instead of simply knowing how to color and identify shapes, kids are now expected to know how to read and even do basic math. That’s why one of the Library’s main priorities is to help our community Start Smart with a strong foundation of early literacy skills. One way we do that is with SPARK (Supporting Partnerships to Assure Ready Kids), a kindergarten readiness program.

SPARK’s goal is to empower parents to be their child’s first and best teacher and to foster a lifelong love of learning. Each SPARK family is guided through the process by a Parent Partner, who conducts in-home visits to work with parents and share activities that build a firm foundation.

SPARK Parent Partners aren’t just coaches, they form close bonds with the families they work with. They are trained to identify signs of barriers to school readiness and connect families with the resources that really make a difference in their lives.

SPARK is a collaboration with the Early Childhood Resource Center which connects the schools, families, and communities in nine Ohio counties and nearly 22 districts, to ensure a child’s success in school. This school year, SPARK will work with over 1000 early learners in Stark County—that’s a lot of future leaders!

Children who have quality experiences with early learning are more likely to stay in school, go to college and have successful careers. The results speak for themselves: SPARK children score higher on state testing than their peers—even years later, and it’s all thanks to the village.

Do you have a 3 or 4-year old getting ready for Kindergarten? Our SPARK Parent Partners can help you and your child prepare for success in school. Call 330.491.3272 for more information.

Spotlight on SPARK Ohio


Danielle is one of our seven SPARK Parent Partners. She visits with more than 38 families each month, helping them Start Smart with a strong foundation of literacy skills. One family that Danielle worked with this year was Christine and her two children, Ella and Eliyah.

Christine first discovered SPARK more than 15 years ago when her oldest child was in the program. She was so impressed with SPARK that she continued the tradition with her other children.

Ella is five and excited to enter Kindergarten in the fall. Her mother, Christine, has worked hard to ensure she has the best start she can by participating in the SPARK program.

Each month Danielle visits with Ella and her younger brother, Eliyah, to explore a storybook (which they get to keep) and learn a series of fun activities to practice with their mom. These activities can range from letter knowledge to using scissors correctly—all important skills for future Kindergarteners!

Ella, once reserved, has come out of her shell as she masters complex skills. Watching her confidence grow is exciting for Danielle.

“She works so hard and diligently. Watching her eyes light up when she grasps a concept is so rewarding. I love working with families and teaching them skills that lay the foundation for success in school.”

Photo of EllaElla graduated from SPARK this year and loves showing what she’s learned, like mixing colors. When asked what her favorite part of SPARK is, Ella proclaims, “Miss Danielle is fun and does fun stuff.”

At first, Ella was hesitant about heading off to school, but Danielle calmed her fears by answering her questions and talking about what school would be like. Now Ella can’t wait for her first day! Thanks to SPARK she’s ready to enter Kindergarten with confidence!

Eliyah, 4, still has awhile before he's off to Kindergarten, but he can already write and identify the letters in his name, and does well with counting. He loves working with Miss Danielle, “She always brings me a book and if I do my lesson good she gives me something cool!”

There’s no doubt he’ll be prepared when it’s his turn to start school!

Christine believes that SPARK is the best thing she could have done for her kids' future. “SPARK is absolutely valuable to the community and I definitely would recommend the program.”