One of the things we know best is that what happens early on matters most later in life. A report from the University of Chicago shows that early investments prove to be the most socially and fiscally beneficial:
Public libraries have four key strategies for building early literacy:
- Public education campaigns
- Parental training workshops
- Tailored technical assistance for childcare and other children's service agencies
- Implement model literacy programs
The Brooklyn Public Library targets "parents and caregivers of babies and toddlers" with multilingual flyers about library programs. They also give new infant goody bags to hospitals that include applications for library cards to help new parents get oriented towards early literacy experiences for their babies.
The Providence Public Library has an initiative called "Cradle to Crayons" which is a "free nine-week program (that) focuses on literacy development of children ages 1-3."
The program has three key components: First, it is designed to introduce young families to the library in a comfortable setting and to develop early literacy skills through songs, rhymes, storytelling and play. Library staff members offer tips that can be used at home to encourage an early interest in reading and learning. Second, it invites local child service agencies to share information on child development, health and safety. Third, it provides Learning and Reading (LARK) Kits that contain ten books, music and visual aids that that parents can check out from the library and use at home with their children.
Public libraries contribute to an overall community sense of well-being and long-term development, starting at the earliest ages through adulthood, reaching the youngest children and their parents and the adults who surround and nurture them in the community.
Given what we know about the role libraries play in promoting early literacy experiences and the positive benefits children and communities reap from this investment, we as a community in Memphis and Shelby County should take a very close look at the role our own libraries play, and the potential they show for encouraging young readers to embark on a literacy journey that will last a lifetime.