Colorful wooden trees designed in Sticks Inc.’s signature style greet children and parents at the Forest Avenue Public Library, welcoming them into its new early childhood literacy center.

The center, dubbed Rosie’s Forest, opened in mid-March because of a $22,000 donation from United Way of Central Iowa’s Women’s Leadership Connection, a female giving circle that raises money to benefit early childhood education programs. Since its inception 10 years ago, the group has raised more than $10 million.

The donation made a big difference, said Sarah Scholten, a senior librarian.

“We completely redesigned the layout. Before, it was very closed off and unwelcoming,” she said.

Inside the forest, children will find new touch-screen computers as well as an improved supply of books and toys set up in hands-on activity stations. Scholten said the stations represent the five early literacy skills young children need to be successful in school: talking, playing, reading, writing and singing.

Created for children ages 6 and under, Scholten said this was the first time the Forest Avenue location has received a donation from the Women’s Leadership Connection and she emphasized the help it has been.

Because the library is in a neighborhood with many immigrants and refugees, many of its visitors do not speak English. Scholten said many times children aren’t learning all of the necessary skills at home. The library is also providing parents with educational pamphlets and signs, in English and Spanish, to promote learning outside the library’s forest.

“Our goal with the center is to see improved pre-reading skills for every child who comes to play in this space, so that when they go to school, they are ready to read,” she said. “These things are not always happening at home, so we need to educate parents so they are more aware and to provide them with the tools they need to succeed.”