Signature Programs

6 by 6   |   Incarcerated Services   |   elementia   |   Race Project KC   |   Memory Lab

You know what the Library can do for you. But, do you know what the Library can do for the community? They say, “A rising tide lifts all boats.” We lift our community by offering a tide of signature programs that empower Johnson Countians. Learn about what we do to support early literacy, help those who are incarcerated, foster creativity in teens, promote cultural awareness and help preserve family memories. 

6 by 6: Six Skills by Six Years Early Literacy Program

6 by 6 Monkey blowing bubblesThe Importance of Early Literacy
From day one, a baby’s brain is busy learning about their environment. From the sounds that they hear to the things that they grasp with tiny fingers, every experience helps build connections in the brain. Think back to high school biology. Do you remember hearing the word synapse in those classes? That’s what those connections are. Over time, a network of synapses creates a framework upon which all formal learning will reside. One role of the Johnson County Library is to help children—and the adults who care about them—build that critical framework.

Why the Library
The Library recognized its unique role in brain development many years ago and created an early literacy program designed to be applicable and approachable for everyone: 6 by 6 Ready to Read. The program focuses on six pre-reading skills to help kids get ready for formal education. The Library doesn’t teach reading. Instead, we provide tools so learning to read is easier when the time comes. The 6 by 6 skills were developed based on "Every Child Ready to Read" principles.

Goat in the boat eating oatsStorytime, Activity Spaces and Outreach
Last year, more than 41,000 adults and children attended a library storytime. We plan and present storytimes separately for babies, toddlers and preschoolers. Each storytime leader demonstrates the pre-reading skills with songs, rhymes, movement activities and, of course, high-quality children’s books. We are hopeful these learning lessons continue in the car and at home, because it’s the parents and caregivers who have the most influence on a child’s learning; librarians just help start the process. See our Storytime schedule »

Literacy Guidance
At Johnson County Library, we have a special team of early literacy specialists who plan the activities in our 6 by 6 activity spaces. These areas are more than a random assemblage of toys. Instead, each center includes activities designed with an intent to reinforce one more of our six pre-reading skills. Play is best when shared, so we strongly encourage adults to play with their children to maximize the impact. Although these spaces vary in size from one location to the next, they are open whenever the library is open and make a great destination for afternoon playdates or bad weather days.

Peacock with letters in its feathersOutside the Library
Of course, not all families can come to the library so we also take our early literacy magic on the road, visiting childcare centers, preschools, park facilities and Parents As Teachers play centers in Blue Valley, Shawnee Mission and De Soto. The Library offers morning workshops for MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers) groups and free, for-credit trainings for preschool teachers.

With assistance from the Friends of the Johnson County Library, we also present books for waiting areas at Shawnee Mission Birth Center, Kansas Department of Children & Families, Johnson County health clinics, and WIC offices. To paraphrase Disney’s The Little Mermaid, we want to be where the people are.

Incarcerated Services

Incarcerated Services Library ShelvesJohnson County Library's Incarcerated Services Librarian Melody Kinnamon fervently believes Library services are for all Johnson County residents, including incarcerated individuals who can’t visit the branches. Before the pandemic, Kinnamon and others offered in-person Library office hours  one day per week. From March 2020 through April 2021, they provided services virtually via Zoom. But they are now able to offer in-person Library office hours every Wednesday and Friday from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. As many as 40 clients visit each time at the Johnson County Corrections Department facilities on the New Century, KS, campus. Kinnamon says about 100 new justice cards were issued in 2021, an increase over 2020. Clients can continue to use them at Johnson County Library locations even when they no longer reside at Corrections facilities. Library staffers also assist Adult Residential Center clients serving alternative work-release sentences, and clients receiving intensive substance abuse treatment at the Therapeutic Community Center.

“The Corrections Department is so amazing,” Kinnamon said. “They have welcomed us and accommodated us.” The department provides a lovely, sunny room with comfortable chairs. Johnson County Library arranges for local artists to display their work, and Johnson County Library Foundation grants provided thousands of dollars to purchase books, which clients can check out on site. ARC even added several children’s books in late 2021, after a client shared that they wanted to read to their child during their weekly video visit.     

Our Library services to justice-involved patrons are supported by the Johnson County Library Foundation in partnership with granting agencies.

  • Read to Me: Incarcerated parents are recorded reading a book, the Library then provides a copy of the recording and the book to the child.
  • Library ETC (explore tinker connect): Production-centered program at the Juvenile Detention Center and Adolescent Center for Treatment facilitated by Johnson County Library staff and volunteers.
  • Court Assisted Reading Encouragement (C.A.R.E.):  Books are provided by the JCL Foundation, given as a gift from the judge, to children from birth to teen who are caught up in the court system.  These books serve as a beacon to encourage these youth in the midst of life challenges. 
  • Therapeutic Community Book Group: A weekly book group facilitated by Library staff for residents of the Adult Residential Center's Therapeutic Community
  • Office Hours: Connecting justice-involved patrons with library resource, librarians bring books and make library cards for residents of the  Adult Residential Center.
  • Author Visits: The Library proudly connects justice-involved patrons with community events by bringing special speakers, authors and workshop facilitators into our partner facilities.


elementia coverelementia is a literary arts magazine published to represent and uplift young adults. We accept original poetry, fiction, nonfiction, graphic stories, photography and illustrations.

elementia is generously supported through the Joan Berkley Writers Fund of the Johnson County Library Foundation. Free copies of the magazine are available at all Johnson County Library locations.

Young Adult Submission Committee
​Do you want to be a part of a young adult group selecting what goes in elementia? If you are in grades 9-12 and are interested in writing or graphic design, we encourage you to join our group. Applications are available online. Have questions about the committee? Email elementia.

If you are a teacher of creative writing or visual arts we want to help you spread the word! We have a presentation and a video you can use to share elementia with your class. And if you would like copies of elementia for your classroom please reach out to elementia staff!

Other Services and Programs