Two Steps to Success: EveryStep and Simple Steps

We are living in times that seem increasingly complicated, but a partnership between EveryStep and the Des Moines Public Library system is based on simplicity.

Simple Steps is a Des Moines Public Library (DMPL) program founded on the principle that parents are the best teachers to get their children ready to read. Funded through Polk County Early Childhood Iowa, Simple Steps highlights five things parents can do with their child to help them succeed: read, write, sing, play and talk.

“Early literacy skills can be incorporated into a family’s daily routine without the need to purchase special materials or have a background in childhood education. Public libraries are a great early literacy resource for books and hands-on learning materials,” says DMPL community engagement supervisor Ashley Molzen.

The connection with EveryStep began when literary specialist Aaron Shore reached out to Ashley in March of 2021 to see if he could film a virtual tour of a library to show families served by EveryStep how the library serves as a community resource. Aaron coordinates EveryStep’s Play & Learn program, which offers child-directed, open ended, playful learning activities designed for children ages 0-8 and their parents. When Play & Learn events are offered in-person, every family receives a book and a healthy snack.

After meeting, Aaron and Ashley discovered that libraries would be an excellent place to host EveryStep’s Play & Learn sessions. Because COVID-19 had forced in-person Simple Steps trainings to a virtual format, DMPL had extra program books and materials. It was clear EveryStep and Simple Steps complemented each other.

The collaboration with EveryStep began with 30 backpacks that had already been prepared for Simple Steps. They were very popular and immediately taken home by families, so more materials were purchased to bring the Simple Steps early literacy message into 72 additional homes as part of EveryStep’s Play & Learn sessions. “The Simple Steps backpacks are designed for young kids ages 0-5 with materials that encourage them to read, write, sing, play and talk,” says Aaron. “Each family is referred into the program with the option of having the EveryStep literacy specialist come out and work with them on these things.”

“Our hope is that families find these backpacks meaningful, but more importantly, they better understand that every day is an opportunity to bring early literacy skills into their homes—and that early literacy skills begin to develop as soon as a child is born,” says Ashley. “The more we can encourage metro families to snuggle up and read; work those hand and finger muscles with scribbling, drawing and even Play-Doh to help build future writing muscles; talk with our kids and ask questions about their day and experiences; sing to and with our kiddos; and create spaces where kids can play and use their imagination to explore the world around them, the better those kids will transition into a formal learning environment and be prepared to learn new skills each day.”

To learn more about EveryStep’s Play & Learn program, visit To find more information on Simple Steps, visit

Watch this short video to see how Simple Steps backpacks are used!