Two conditions found essential for creating a reader are (1) an early environment that offers literary experience, that is, a print-filled environment (books, magazines, newspapers, etc.), and adults reading these materials, and (2) a caring adult to introduce the child to literary pleasure. The public library meets both requirements
Early Literacy and Education
Public library programs offer wonderful opportunities for promoting school-readiness skills in children and creating positive associations with books while showing parents how important these skills are and how to reinforce them at home.
“Kids love the programs, and librarians, parents, and early-childhood educators do too,” said [Sally] Anderson. “’What’s the Big Idea?’ helps librarians expand on the things they already do, incorporating science and math into all kinds of ongoing library programs. And the opportunity to experiment and solve problems on their own is a phenomenal self-esteem builder for kids. The activities are fun, but this is also serious stuff, and the kids understand that. They’re not only playing; they’re discovering the rewards of intellectual satisfaction.”
Parents, almost unanimously, reported that their children enjoyed the program, and afterwards continued to talk about the experience at home. Most parents felt the hands-on projects were the best part of the session; some also mentioned the effective link of books to activities, as well as the positive social aspects of the program.
But by using readily available data about reading scores, children’s services in public libraries, and adult educational attainment, this analysis supports the widespread belief that the efforts of public libraries to promote early literacy pays off in terms of higher reading scores during elementary school. There is a positive and statistically significant relationship between children’s services in public libraries and early reading success at school.
It is important for school librarians to introduce themselves to the early childhood educators in their schools by inviting them to visit the school library and look at the available resources. They can also make plans for story time with the students and collaborate to build a foundation for early literacy.
Many children begin school today at a disadvantage. They may not have been read to on a regular basis, and many have never been to a library. School librarians can make books fun for these students and introduce them to the whole new world ahead of them!
Young children are enthusiastic, eager to participate, and learning all the time. The time devoted to creating these positive experiences with young children is time well spent. With a little planning and an inviting attitude, all school librarians can provide a delightful and meaningful introduction to the library for even the youngest members of the school community.
State-by-state data released by the National Center for Education Studies (NCES) in November 2007 provides evidence of a strong, positive link between the amount of children's materials circulated by public libraries and fourth-grade reading scores on the same agency's National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP). Of states ranking in the top half on readings scores, more than four-fifths (82 percent) ranked in the top half on circulation of children's materials per capita. Conversely, four out of five states (83 percent) in the bottom half on reading scores also rank in the bottom half on children's circulation. Of states ranking in the top half on reading scores, seven out of 10 (70 percent) ranked in the top half on attendance at children's programs per capita. By contrast, seven out of 10 states (71 percent) in the bottom half on reading scores also rank in the bottom half on children's program attendance.