Reading is an early indicator of academic success, and Georgia’s public libraries are a place for children and families to build a foundation for early literacy development.
In many libraries, families can take advantage of special initiatives such as the 1,000 Books Before Kindergarten program, storytimes, early literacy stations, as well as services for children with visual or hearing impairments. Visit georgialibraries.org/kids to learn more or check at your local branch.
Early Literacy kits build confidence for caregivers in Sequoyah
Library card holders in the Sequoyah Regional Library System can now check out a Starling Kit, which contains a word counter that measures the number of words a child hears. When paired with the Starling smartphone app, the word counter offers a personalized experience for caregivers to set reading and word goals with a child.
Cognitive and language development in infants and toddlers depends largely on the amount of verbal engagement they receive. The Starling Kits serve as encouragement for parents and caregivers to talk and read to their children.
“The kit held me accountable to not putting my daughter in front of the television,” said Elizabeth Lemke. “It motivated me to talk and read more to my daughter. When we had the kit, I read to my daughter more often – instead of one book at night we read several. The goals provided a daily push for us to read.”
The Starling Kits are part of a greater effort by Sequoyah Regional to promote early literacy and language development among the community. The system also is conducting outreach to schools and community partners to increase awareness of all its early literacy resources and programming.
“We want our community to know we are committed to early literacy,” says Angela Glowcheski, assistant director of the Sequoyah Regional Library System. “We’re so excited to offer parents and caregivers the tools they can use to set their child up for success.”
Sequoyah Regional is the first public library system in Georgia circulating the Starling Kits and is doing so as part of its participation in the Early Language and Literacy Mini-Grant Program from the Governor’s Office of Student Achievement.
1,000 Books Before Kindergarten creates tradition of reading for families
Twin sisters Kate and Emily completed 1,000 Books Before Kindergarten together at the Dalton-Whitfield County Public Library. They took every step together – book by book – all the way to 1,000.
“The day they completed was full of joy, but the most important decision was who would get the pink backpack as prize,” said Lizzy Stuckey, youth services manager at Dalton-Whitfield. “When I explained that all our backpacks are filled with books, the outside didn’t matter anymore. They quickly unzipped their packs and started exploring their new collection. That moment crystallized what this program is all about: building an early and enduring love of reading.”
The 1,000 Books Before Kindergarten challenge is simple: Read any book to your child, with the goal of reading 1,000 before kindergarten. The program provides a solid foundation of literacy and love of learning before kids start kindergarten.
“This program has been such a gift to our community,” said Darla Chambliss, director of the Northwest Georgia Regional Library System. “It builds confidence in our youngest patrons, and I love the early connection it creates between the library and child – that this is a place of growth, learning, familiarity and positivity for everyone who participates.”
The program also creates a tradition of reading together for an entire family system.
“I often joke that the caregivers deserve a prize too, because they invest so much work and time into setting a child up for academic and personal success,” said Stuckey.
Northwest Georgia Regional Library expanded 1,000 Books B4 Kindergarten outside the walls of the library by partnering with Friendship House, a local day care and preschool. They promoted the program to parents who had three or four year olds enrolled there, and the teachers collected reading logs.
“The most fulfilling part was attending graduation at the end of the school year and presenting completers with their own backpack full of books,” said Stuckey. “You could feel their sense of pride at achieving something big at such a young age.”
Learn more about 1,000 Books Before Kindergarten at georgialibraries.org/kids/b4
Thomas County builds literacy for young and old
Thomas County Public Library aims to provide a source for ongoing education and programs, as well as equality of services, as they build literacy in their community.
“It’s so important to strengthen partnerships with community organizations and local schools to increase our reach and impact to everyone in Thomas County,” said Director Trent Reynolds.
Working with the county school system, the library promotes early literacy through sessions at each branch, when books are given to participating families and a school representative teaches skills to improve literacy. As a 2018 recipient of the Literacy for Learning, Living, and Leading in Georgia (L4GA) grant by the Georgia Department of Education, these efforts will be strengthened and expanded.
Ongoing activities include weekly storytimes, 1,000 Books Before Kindergarten, and availability of early literacy computer stations to encourage reading as a fun activity.
The library also focuses on adult literacy; retired teachers volunteer to provide one-on-one literacy lessons, GED tutoring and weekly computer basics classes, and staff deliver weekly hand-picked large-print titles to patrons in four assisted living homes.
The library recently celebrated community wide efforts by hosting their 12th annual Literacy Fair to promote the importance of literacy at every age, in partnership with the Thomas County Certified Literate Community Program, city and county school systems and vendors.
“To see the community get together to help the families and encourage the beauty and benefit of reading is an absolute treat,” said Kathy Megahee, executive director of Thomas County Family Connection.
Hundreds attended the fair and enjoyed literacy activities ranging from letter recognition to simple math skills, vendors shared resources for improving literacy skills and free books were given out to encourage reading in homes.