The Library Springfield-Greene County Library District Springfield, Missouri

Get Your Child Racing to Read with Help from the Library

If you’re looking for things to do with your toddlers this summer, consider this: Some 25 percent of Greene County children are not ready to learn when they start kindergarten, says Nancee Dahms-Stinson, the library’s youth services coordinator.

What’s the best way to help them be prepared? Visit the library; enroll them in the Summer Reading Program. Some 16,000 children participate every year.

The library’s signature program, Racing to Read, shows parents five simple and fun habits that parents can do with their children from birth to build and strengthen the skills they need to learn to read. All five are part of the children’s Summer Reading Program.

These “roads to reading” include reading books with the child; playing with sounds, songs and rhymes; playing make-believe; talking about words and introducing new words; and playing with letters and words that the child sees everywhere – from cereal boxes to billboards.

Lots of research guided the Racing to Read early literacy program. One example: Studies show that the size of a child’s vocabulary when he starts kindergarten is the best predictor of school success.

Racing to Read is part of the library all year, too. Workshops and resources incorporate Racing to Read to help parents and caregivers be the best first teachers for young children. More than 80 Racing to Read early literacy story times are offered each month for families with children birth through age 6.

Youth services staff provide monthly Racing to Read story times for about 2,400 more children at 150 sites – preschools in Title 1 schools, home day cares, Head Start classes and child care centers. The library’s full-time, early literacy specialist at the Women, Infants and Children clinic, or WIC, has met with more than 6,000 families to provide playful ways to prepare their preschoolers to be ready to learn to read.

The Library also participates in community-wide early literacy projects including the News-Leader’s Every Child Project and the Dolly Parton Imagination Library, led by the United Way.

Wondering how to keep the youngster in your house busy this summer? Consider one parent’s comment about her daughter’s reading habits: “By doing this since she was first born, she has developed a love of reading and it has really developed her intellect.”

Kathleen O'Dell is community relations director for the Springfield-Greene County Library District. She can be reached at

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