The Importance of Early Literacy
From day one, a baby’s brain is busy learning about their environment. From the sounds that they hear to the things that they grasp with tiny fingers, every experience helps build connections in the brain. Think back to high school biology. Do you remember hearing the word synapse in those classes? That’s what those connections are. Over time, a network of synapses creates a framework upon which all formal learning will reside. One role of the Johnson County Library is to help children—and the adults who care about them—build that critical framework.
Why the Library
The Library recognized its unique role in brain development many years ago and created an early literacy program designed to be applicable and approachable for everyone: 6 by 6 Ready to Read. The program focuses on six pre-reading skills to help kids get ready for formal education. The Library doesn’t teach reading. Instead, we provide tools so learning to read is easier when the time comes.
Storytime, Activity Spaces and Outreach
Last year, more than 41,000 adults and children attended a library storytime. We plan and present storytimes separately for babies, toddlers and preschoolers. Each storytime leader demonstrates the pre-reading skills with songs, rhymes, movement activities and, of course, high-quality children’s books. We are hopeful these learning lessons continue in the car and at home, because it’s the parents and caregivers who have the most influence on a child’s learning; librarians just help start the process.
At Johnson County Library, we have a special team of early literacy specialists who plan the activities in our 6 by 6 activity spaces. These areas are more than a random assemblage of toys. Instead, each center includes activities designed with an intent to reinforce one more of our six pre-reading skills. Play is best when shared, so we strongly encourage adults to play with their children to maximize the impact. Although these spaces vary in size from one location to the next, they are open whenever the library is open and make a great destination for afternoon playdates or bad weather days.
Outside the Library
Of course, not all families can come to the library so we also take our early literacy magic on the road, visiting childcare centers, preschools, park facilities and Parents As Teachers play centers in Blue Valley, Shawnee Mission and De Soto. The Library offers morning workshops for MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers) groups and free, for-credit trainings for preschool teachers.
With assistance from the Friends of the Johnson County Library, we also present books for waiting areas at Shawnee Mission Birth Center, Kansas Department of Children & Families, Johnson County health clinics, and WIC offices. To paraphrase Disney’s The Little Mermaid, we want to be where the people are.