Intro by Begoña
Eva Start with a quote from Andrew Carnegie:
“With access to books, character alone would determine one’s destiny.”
This statement is more true now than ever – and early exposure to a language rich environment, including books, is a primary factor in determining a child’s success in school and long-term success in life.
A recent Pew Research Center survey reported that 85% of respondents believe that libraries “should definitely” offer early literacy programming and resources to help children become ready for school.
The Cooperative Library Services motto is “connecting people, books and resources” and early literacy education is a perfect example of the intersection of those three things.
Exposing young children (ages 0 to 6) to a language rich environment builds their capacity to learn.
Reading, talking, singing, playing, and building the muscles a child uses to write are all considered early literacy practice.
These activities build a strong foundation for children as they begin to read and write on their own.
Young children’s brains are ready for literacy learning from ages 0-6 in a way that is unmatched by any other time in their lives.
Access to resources at the public library regardless of a family’s socio-economic situation ensures the future of Washington County as a vibrant and thriving community.
Practice with reading, writing, singing, talking, and playing is an investment in our society.
A person’s success as an informed, literate citizen starts with the time they spend on these skills when they are young.
I thought this infographic said it all: while brain development happens between the ages of 0 and 24, 90% of all brain development happens before age 5. Before most children have ever stepped into a classroom.
Babies begin their lives with one and a half times the number of synapses as adults. From birth, and even before that, babies are strengthening some connections while letting other, less necessary ones, fall away.
This is what makes early literacy so important. Without exposure to early literacy activities like reading, building muscles that will help with writing, talking, singing, and playing, the very connections we need to become successful and literate citizens will be deemed unnecessary to a baby’s developing brain. Early literacy is an imperative and complex exercise in “use it or lose it.”
A study published by Hart and Risley at the University of Kentucky in 1995 showed that the difference in word exposure across socio-economic class can be astronomical. Without a deliberate focus on early literacy skills in the home, children in high-income homes are exposed to 30 MILLION MORE words in the first four years of their lives than those in low-income homes. Subsequent studies have shown that these differences in shared language experiences have lasting effects on a child’s life.
The public library is often called the great equalizer, and early literacy has become a huge focus in our children’s departments to help get all children ready for school.
How can we help children do the important work of becoming ready for school in the early years? A few different activities promote big returns in literacy learning:
Sharing books and stories: sharing stories and books fosters a love of reading by associating the act of reading with pleasure and belonging. When children share books with older children and adults, they hear new words, develop social skills, and discover the fun and value of reading.
Exposing children to print: from signs on the road to the description on a cereal box, alerting children to print in their everyday shows them that these symbols they encounter have meaning. This is the very first step in recognizing letters, a key skill when learning to read.
Singing and storytelling: Singing, even bad singing, stretches out words to let children hear every syllable and sound. This prepares the brain for the link between sounds and letters. Storytelling introduces children to narration, the very unique system by which a story is told. Hearing examples of cause and effect, background knowledge, and story order helps children understand the stories they hear and later read independently.
Learning through Play: Fred Rogers once said “play is the work of childhood.” Playing helps children with story creation and re-creation, which helps with comprehension as they learn to read. Additionally, playing is practice in symbolism, which is a key to learning to read and write. Some research even links a child’s ability to play pretend with positive gains in emergent writing (Pelegrini, 1985). The connections children’s brains are making in abstract thinking prepare them for philosophical and hypothetical thought. Discerning and aware adults are made through play as kids.
Developing vocabulary: A strong vocabulary is one of the most critical components of literacy success. Engaging children in conversations and reading to them from a variety of books adds to a child’s vocabulary, which directly affects reading comprehension as they grow into independent readers.
Getting ready to read is a tough job, and it’s one that children must take on at a very young age. Washington County libraries are equipped to answer the call with programs, services, and resources to secure a bright future for our community.
Literacy is a vehicle for all learning and is the greatest gift we can give the children in our community.
On top of societal benefits like poverty and crime rate reduction, reading can relieve stress and build resilience to help children lead enriched lives.
Monetarily speaking, the return on investment to community that prioritizes early literacy is as high as 16%.
Public libraries have already begun to invest staff time and resources into helping children with the difficult and rewarding task of learning how to read. A collection of high-quality books is just the beginning.
An engaging literacy environment at home is one of the biggest predictors for reading achievement later in life. Each child deserves a variety of great books to browse and adults who are empowered to engage them in fun early literacy activities. This type of home environment can be fostered with resources from our Washington County libraries.
On top of the 628,000 juvenile items currently being browsed and checked out around the county, our libraries have knowledgeable staff that enriches the lives of over 280,000 child visitors every year. From making sure the shelves are stocked with the best materials in a kid-friendly way to engaging children and their caregivers in weekly storytimes aimed at specific ages and skills, to reaching children where they are in their local communities, Washington County libraries hold a strong commitment to a literate and informed county.
WCCLS is the backbone of Washington County libraries. The Youth Services Outreach and Training team is dedicated supporting early literacy throughout the county at many different levels. A collection of early literacy kits help make every public library storytime an effective and engaging one. Trainings for parents and child care providers in schools and community organizations help reach adults serving children who may not have yet connected with their local libraries. Our most recent success is a project called Books for Kids—non-licensed child care providers in high-risk catchments receive training in the Early Literacy curriculum Every Child Read to Read, and then are delivered a new tub of 50 high-quality books every month for 6 months. These books include culturally-relevant picture books, easy non-fiction books, and a professional book for the caregiver to read on their own. Early literacy activity ideas accompany each tub. We make the creation of an early-literacy environment for all children a convenient and rewarding undertaking for our community’s families and care givers.
StephanieWCCLS and our member libraries are proud to be partners in the Washington County Early Learning Hub. We are delighted to have a seat at the Early Learning table at both the county and local levels.
WCCLS Staff represents our member libraries at the Steering Committee, Operations Committee, Equity Lens Committee, and Parenting Committee meetings. Staff serving youth at each member library attends the local Early Learning Team meetings to strengthen local connections.
The Early Learning Hub facilitates partnerships and empowers community organizations to create relevant and efficient initiatives to promote early learning around the county. WCCLS is able to share resources with other community partners, able to move forward with a shared vision without duplicating efforts. Youth services library staff, as experts in early literacy, further the mission of the Early Learning Hub by emphasizing the skills children need to learn to read and write.
One example of a dynamic partnership made possible through the Early Learning Hub is the Books for Kids program. Community Action Organization identifies and contacts in-home child care providers in high-risk catchment areas in the county. WCCLS invites these providers to attend training based on the Every Child Ready to Read curriculum and to receive tubs of 50 high-quality books every month for six months. They’re also given ideas about how to engage the children in their care in early literacy activities.
In July and August, the providers in the Books for Kids program engaged their children in a total of 1,152 early literacy experiences, or an average of 2 per provider per day. In August, we began prompting the providers with easy ideas to practice early literacy skills, and they boosted their reported practice by 2/3. The Books for Kids program, a direct result of the Early Learning Hub, is a stellar illustration of how community partners can join forces to brighten the future of Washington County.
In 2006, we talked to you about the importance of early literacy. Nine years later, we have been successful in making early literacy a priority in public libraries and early literacy is now being discussed at a state and national level. The numbers are clear: when an intentional focus is placed on early literacy, communities thrive and an informed citizenry is fostered.
While we are happy with the strides we have made, we are aware that service gaps still exist and we hope in the future to support all early learners through third grade to fulfill the promise we’ve made to our community’s children.
(Levy proposal would allow for a growth in projects that support early readers once they reach school through the establishment of the library assistant as a full-time employee and additional Youth Services Librarian)