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By Jess Macinko
News Editor 

Libraries promote early literacy, student access


April 19, 2017

Jess Macinko

TIMELY READING: Goldendale Librarian Amy King-Schoppert displays a 'Grow a Reader' bin.

is spring, young children and their parents may be pleased to find children's books in unlikely places. In waiting rooms throughout the county, plastic bins offer a suggestion for families to pass the time-"Read while you wait!"

The bins are part of a Fort Vancouver Regional Library (FVRL) initiative to promote early literacy. Each bin contains a selection of books for families to read together (the material is geared to children ages zero to five).

Jennifer Studebaker, FVRL community partnership and outreach coordinator, says the goal of the program is threefold.

First, it provides a practical service to parents stuck in waiting rooms. "Not everyone carries a giant bag of books with them," Studebaker says.

Second, it introduces families to age-appropriate reading material. "There's a wide range of children's books, and it's hard to know what's appropriate for which age," Studebaker says. "These have been preselected by professionals."

But most importantly, the program promotes "pre-literacy"-honing five skills that pave the way for future readers.

Studebaker, whose background is in youth services librarianship, explains the five skills: reading (to your child), writing, talking, playing, and singing.

"When you read to a child," Studebaker says, "you're using words you might not use in typical conversation, or the cadence or rhythm might be different-it helps children understand language, how words and sentences are formed."

For a zero- to five-year old, writing doesn't actually mean writing letters. Instead, they may be drawing or just holding a pen, activities that develop motor skills.

Talking with your child is one of the most important ways to help them build vocabulary and understand language.

Playing is how children learn, and how they learn how to learn.

Singing is a good way to inspire the imagination and help children learn things. For example, one of the first songs children learn is the alphabet.

Together, those skills provide a well-rounded opportunity for children to access language.

The bins are located primarily in waiting rooms of healthcare and social services facilities, like the Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS); and Women, Infants, and Children (WIC). Of 45 total bins for the district, Klickitat County has 15.

To address underserved populations, some bins contain reading materials translated into Spanish and Russian-the two most widely spoken non-English languages within FVRL's service area.

The program is funded through the FVRL foundation-a fact that's integral to its mission.

"If we had to track every single book, [the program] wouldn't be possible. The idea is to leave the books there for people to use," Studebaker says.

By accident-or not-a book might go home with a person. Because the program is funded through donations and not tax dollars, FVRL can be less restrictive with the materials.

Connecting to schools

Studebaker is also spearheading an FVRL project focused on older children and teens. The "Connect Card" initiative works with schools to distribute special cards to students, granting library access regardless of typical library-card standing.

"Maybe they have bills, or they're blocked, or for some reason they can't access library materials. We want to make sure students have the resources they need to support their education," Studebaker says.

The goal is to get those cards into the hands of 100 percent of students, teachers and para-educators. But new cards are just part of a larger strategy.

"We're going to the school and working with the teachers to help students have a deeper understanding of the library resources they have, and how those can support their education and reading for fun," Studebaker says.

Lyle School District will host the pilot program for Klickitat County, which is expected to launch this fall. Studebaker has been working closely with Lyle schools to get all pieces in place. She praises the hard work and cooperation of school staff.

"The teachers and administration at Lyle are beyond amazing," Studebaker says. "It's wonderful to work with people who care so much about the success of the students. Sometimes it can be hard to do a big new project. They really made it a pleasure."

The age range for Connect Card will be different for different parts of district. For Lyle, it will be K – 12.


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