The Library Springfield-Greene County Library District Springfield, Missouri

Library Programs Help Children Achieve Early Literacy

The 2010 census results rolling out this year are prompting many of us to revisit how we serve the public, because it’s not the same “public” it used to be.

Among other things, there are more multigenerational households, more Hispanic immigrants and those new, Spanish-speaking residents are more likely than non-Hispanics to have young children.

The library is working on the best ways to serve each diverse group, but we know that leading them to reading will be key – because literacy can bring success in school and in life.

One of our newest projects is Racing to Read. The early literacy program provides parents and other adult caregivers a simple road map for getting preschoolers ready to learn to read. (We hear “multigenerational homes,” and we see great opportunities for more grandmas and grandpas to spend time reading to their grandchildren.)

Racing to Read suggests five easy activities to do with a child anywhere: have fun telling stories, read books your child enjoys; play with sounds, songs and rhymes; talk with the child using fun or new words; and play with words and letters you see on signs and pictures. Each library branch also has learning stations that encourage playful learning.

Then there’s Racing to Read storytimes for babies, toddlers and preschoolers at regular times at each branch. They’re packed with songs and fun activities that give families ideas to use at home.

Reading is also at the heart of our growing outreach program at the WIC Clinic in the Jordan Valley Community Health Center. Early literacy outreach associate Stephanie Smallwood visits with parents while they’re seeing nutrition counselors at the WIC Clinic.

Stephanie’s goal is to reach parents who might not use the library, and educate them about reading to their children from birth. The project is a partnership between the library district and the Missouri Parent Information Resource Center, MO-PIRC.

Stephanie is also on track to serve some of the growing Hispanic population. All families she meets through WIC are treated to book parties there with English- and Spanish-speaking educators. Parties attract up to 80 children and 60 adults – many of them Spanish-speaking parents – who go home with a better understanding of the link between reading and success.

We’re open to more ideas; tell us what you think.

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