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Literacy Development and the Library

The American Library Association has a lot to say regarding the development of literacy and the part libraries play in that important stage of development. What are some key points that the ALA makes and how do we stack up?

Libraries prepare children for their transition to kindergarten. We’ve got a lot more than one activity for children that is designed to do that. Perhaps the most well-known is One Thousand Books before Kindergarten. This is a long running program for kids from birth up to the beginning of kindergarten. It is individualized in that a parent or caregiver signs their baby or child up for the program and keeps the logs showing how many books and which ones they read with their child.

Children’s books being as short as they are, it isn’t as daunting as we might think to get to that thousand books. There are also prizes along the way at 250, 500, 750, and 1000 books read. Story Time is singled out by the ALA as yet another important preparation for kindergarten.

The ALA points out Summer Reading is another critical programming feature at many libraries. In fact, annual themes and some contributing promotional artwork comes from our own Michigan Library Association each year. Summer reading programs are family oriented and encourage kids to get ahead rather than fall behind during their summer school hiatus. Summer reading is a greatly successful program at our library. Even last year in total pandemic mode we found a way to have a version of it.

Libraries provide programs and materials for young people that advance literacy, another ALA point. And we are in the thick of that at our own library. For example, we now have book discussions for teens and tweens. These opportunities hone literacy skills. The ability to discuss books with one another is a whole different way of critical thinking and processing what we read. Adults have long thrived on them (like our Books for Lunch group and all our private book clubs) and now so can kids through the library. (Kids in our town have been known to start their own book groups at school, too. Frankenmuth is supportive of reading.)

The ALA makes the point that librarians’ expertise in selecting and using materials is unique. That’s important since a big chunk of literacy development at libraries is simply to get books and materials into the hands of people of all ages. When it comes to kids, however, we are invested in two specialists, Cheri Stainforth, Early Learning Specialist, and Barb Barger, Youth Services librarian, not to mention our own director, Pam Williams was for many years our full time Children’s Librarian. Human resources are a valuable investment. In this case, both our holdings and our programming are expertly informed.

A last point that the ALA makes, is that books provide leisure opportunities. And the very act of reading at any age promotes literacy. While especially critical in childhood development, it’s a mistake to think that our literacy growth ever ends. We are never too old to become more literate. Reading and participating in reading discussions are primary ways to do that.

We know what we love, enjoy and appreciate about our own library. Sometimes we can appreciate it in the larger context of what libraries are designed to do – and to no one’s surprise, our own library is always working with a great deal of intention and planning for the future. While we are still in the process of returning to pre-pandemic normalcy and working on how things will be the same and different, our librarians and resources are here for you.

See you at the Library!

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