Songs and coloring books, newsletters and alerts all part of census push

Elgin Area School District U-46 officials are working on an employee and parent awareness campaign about the 2020 Census.

The district has developed a "tool kit" for administrators emphasizing census talking points and answers to frequently asked questions. Officials are reaching staff members and parents through newsletters, presentations, emails, posters in schools, flyers sent home with students, school websites, U-46 app alerts and social media.

A more targeted information campaign is planned closer to Census Day on April 1, when every home will have received an invitation to respond to the census.

Officials are training school employees and parent leaders about the census so they understand its impact on the district and the 11 communities U-46 serves, said Karla Jimenez, coordinator of family and community engagement.

The district is partnering with public libraries to reach specific populations, such as engaging Latino families participating in a recent posada - Mexican pre-Christmas celebration - at Gail Borden Public Library in Elgin.

Meeting children and families where they spend much of their time, such as schools, libraries, community centers, museums and holiday events, is a key strategy to reaching hard-to-count groups, said Denise Raleigh, Gail Borden Public Library spokeswoman and co-chairwoman of Elgin's Complete Count Committee.

"We have over 70 organizations that are already working on the census, but the school district is really one of the most significant partners that we have," Raleigh said.

U-46 will be making school computer labs and tablets available for parents and community members who want to complete their census forms online - a new feature in the 2020 census.

Schools also can use tools available on the Census Bureau's Statistics in Schools website to educate children and families.

Teachers can incorporate interactive classroom activities and lesson plans designed using census data in various subjects - math, English, history, geography and civics. Activities include coloring pictures of people and animals living in a home and singing a census song with a catchy refrain: "The census counts people in homes big and small. You count if you're tiny. You count if you're tall. Because everyone counts in the U.S. of A. Everyone counts in their own special way."

Students can learn fun census facts about all 50 states and participate in activities by grade level - from counting for preschoolers to examining career statistics for high schoolers. Bilingual materials also are available highlighting how a complete count benefits all communities.

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