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Partnership Helps Get Children Ready to Read

Parents get more than nutrition counseling for their little ones when they visit the WIC Clinic at Jordan Valley Community Health Center in Springfield.

They get one-on-one help from a librarian and tips on helping their children be ready to read and succeed in school.

The project is a unique partnership at WIC (Women, Infants and Children) between the Springfield Public Schools and the Springfield-Greene County Library District. A Mayor’s Commission for Children grant funds parent educators from the school system, two librarians, books for the WIC families and related projects.

Everyone focuses on the prenatal months through age 5 – prime brain development years. That’s when the ready-to-learn process has to take place.  

The librarians show parents how to fuel those developing brains by reading aloud to their babies, talking and playing easy games with them.

Such simple steps can have profound effects on a child’s vocabulary and ability to read. And parents learn it’s never too early to read to their newborns, nor do they need a lot of money or a college education to give their children an early boost toward success.  
      
WIC-based librarian Diana Hartsell recently asked one mom if she reads to her baby. The answer: “I do now because I was here last month and you told me what a difference it could make. Now I read to my baby every night at bedtime.”
     
In 18 months, the librarians met with more than 3,000 adults and kids and gave away almost as many books. About 200 of those parents also applied for library cards.  
      
WIC nutritionist Rebecca Anders described how one of the WIC parents said she was glad ‘that lady (librarian Stephanie Smallwood) gave me those books for my kids.’ She got great ideas to carry home, too.  
     
“As I observe…the interaction between the library staff and our participants, I feel their presence has a very positive impact among our clientele and this partnership is a real asset to our program and our families,” Anders said. “I believe the rapport they establish with the parents and children is invaluable to the readiness to read campaign, and the seeds planted will no doubt have far-reaching effects…”   
     
Despite its success, the grant expires in September 2010 and won’t be renewed.   The library continues to search for other funding sources so the program can continue.

Kathleen O’Dell is community relations director for the Springfield-Greene County Library District. She can be reached at kathleeno@thelibrary.org.

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