Rep. Rick Larsen talked with local and national representatives on Oct. 6 about resources for parents, caregivers and teachers to help students learn while staying home.
Larsen held the online roundtable discussion with officials from the Sno-Isle Libraries, the Library of Congress and the Smithsonian Institute, which all have digital tools available to explore and learn.
"Today will only address part of the tremendous burden parents and guardians are feeling," Larsen said.
There are still a variety of problems faced by low-income families during this time.
"Many kids across our state are without reliable internet access and that is making productive online learning nearly impossible," said Larsen. "Others are finding themselves going to food banks for the first time."
He said he hoped to promote some educational tools during the discussion, but more needs to be done to support families.
Lois Langer Thompson, executive director of the Sno-Isle Libraries, said local libraries still want to support the community.
They hope to continue providing services at a distance.
"You can chat, email, phone or text to book a librarian," said Thompson. "Our vision is that everyone is connected to their library."
Although that is more challenging now, staff is continuing with that goal, she said.
Sno-Isle Libraries is currently working on digital equity by providing community Wi-Fi in their parking lots for those who need internet access.
"At our parking lots, you can drive in and use that Wi-Fi," said Thompson.
Librarians are also able to provide assistance with homework for students who need some support.
The library system also has a number of eBook resources "which have been around a long time but we're certainly seeing more use now," said Thompson.
The Sno-Isle Libraries also hopes to encourage physical activity as well.
"As students spend a lot of time inside, and we as adults as well, there is a need to find ways to get outside and enjoy," said Thompson.
"We have some to-do to-go activity kits that you can pick up. Just ways to engage families together in ways to learn," she said.
The Library of Congress has a number of digitized resources from the early 1900s. They can't reproduce material until the copyright has lapsed, but the library has a great deal of historical material.
"We have a robust website to share the portion of our resources that have been digitized," said Cheryl Lederle, educational resources specialist with the Library of Congress. "Audio recordings, books, films and videos, including the earliest Thomas Edison videos, legislation, manuscripts, maps, newspaper are available."
All of the material is searchable online at www.loc.gov.
The Smithsonian Institution also has some of their information and exhibits available online.
Providing learning opportunities is part of the organization's mission, said Ruki Neuhold-Ravikumar, acting under secretary for education at the institution.
"While we continue to work on reopening our museum, the diffusion of knowledge has continued to be a challenge during these times," she said.
The site at www.learninglab.si.edu provides opportunities for learning.
"This is the platform where you can really search through all of the Smithsonian's digitized collections," said Neuhold-Ravikumar.
"If you are a teacher this is a great sandbox tool for you to think about how the Smithsonian resources can complement your classroom," she said.
Parents can also explore the exhibits to learn some history.
"As dining rooms turned into home offices we know caregivers needed some help too," she said.