The Oceano Branch of the San Luis Obispo (SLO) City-County Public Library system is the first (SLO) branch library to implement the Raising a Reader Program. The newly opened branch, which is situated on a site next to the Oceano Elementary School and an adult learning center, is well positioned to provide services to both parents and their children. The program, which is partially supported by First 5 of San Luis Obispo and the San Luis Obispo County Office of Education, targets children and their families living in the predominantly Hispanic community surrounding Oceano Elementary School. The project is part of a broad initiative to provide educational support to parents, provide preschool and childcare, operate kindergarten transition programs, coordinate existing health and social services, and encourage schools to be ready for children, and vice versa. A preliminary review of the program results conducted by First 5 of San Luis Obispo indicate that the program is having a significant impact on the way parents approach learning in the household. Parents surveyed after three months of program participation reported statistically significant changes in the amount they read to their children (from 59% at baseline to 85%), their perceived importance of such reading (from 8.9% at baseline to 9.8%), and their increased use of the library system (from 38% at baseline to 69%) (First 5 SLO 2005) (p. 11).
Early Literacy and Education
This includes the encouragement for young people to read (and the role libraries play in creating and cultivating readers), the constantly growing collection of resources and materials, the fact that everyone is welcome, and literacy programs.
Brooklyn Public Library’s (BPL’s) citywide literacy campaign, which targets both parents and caregivers of babies and toddlers, includes informational brochures and materials, produced in six different languages, which are distributed through the library and community partners; a web resource with information about early literacy; library programming on early literacy for children from birth to age five; and direct outreach to a wide range of children and family service agencies throughout Brooklyn. The campaign has cast a wide net by connecting with area service providers to get the word out to the community. Flyers and posters are available at area beauty parlors, clinics, schools, hospitals and markets. BPL has also made informational brochures available for family court. Area health providers, such as Coney Island Hospital, assist by providing Brooklyn Reads to Babies program information and library card applications in new infant goody bags (p. 9).
Libraries are now making much deeper resource investments in early literacy training. Indeed, for many communities they are the lead agencies for early literacy services and training for young children. In the survey conducted among Urban Libraries Council members, over 90% of responding libraries identified their library as providing special programming in the area of early literacy. Of these, 92% had enhanced their collections with materials specifically related to early literacy promotion. School readiness and child development activities included family and intergenerational reading development programs, parenting programs, and support services for child care professionals. Among the libraries providing early child development programming 70% provided early literacy workshops on a weekly or monthly basis, and just over 60% provided workshops for childcare workers and early education teachers (p. 8).
Our visits to libraries throughout the state show that these programs help develop strong reading skills in Pennsylvania’s children. The programs encourage children to enjoy reading and give them opportunities to spend lots of time with books—a first step toward developing strong reading skills. Children also benefit from the rich literacy experiences afforded by the many special events and organized programs the library offers. Finally, parents of children engaged in preschool and summer reading programs appear to be strongly invested in their children’s reading achievement. For thousands of children through Pennsylvania, preschool and summer reading programs offer a strong step in their climb toward reading achievement, and ultimately, success in school (40).
Observations at various libraries and interviews with parents, children, and library staff reveal that preschool and summer reading programs encourage children to spend significant amounts of time with books, a first step toward reading achievement. Observations and interviews also show that library programs encourage parents to play greater roles in the children’s literacy development—another factor leading to reading achievement (4).
Researchers have found that early literacy development has a strong correlation with children’s future academic achievement programs (Bowman, Donovan and Burns, 2001; Shonkoff and Phillips, 2000).
The free-flowing nature of the library also allowed for parents to actively participate in their children’s reading. Noting the lack of literacy programs available for children at the shelter and in the community, one mother talked about the public library as being the place she could take her children to support their literacy development.
Informational and collaborative networks of librarians and other professionals who serve preschoolers in child care can promote secure emotional growth so that a child grows up deeply confident that he or she is lovable and loved. This emotional foundation supports positive attitude towards learning and presages with high probability that, with the help of adult mentors, each child will become the kind of learner and reader who will succeed in school…
The librarian’s expertise in selecting and using materials is unique. The librarian is not an early childhood educator, but—by training and experience—the librarian is equipped to nurture the young child’s curiosity through his interest in stories and books. Moreover, the goals of the profession give librarians a vested interest in the child’s development of language and reading skills.