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Thursday, April 17, 2014

Early Literacy Services –Helping Children Get Ready to Read

Lives Change @ Fairfax County Public Library: What can we do for you?

Early Literacy Services Librarian Renee Edwards
 “Once again you dazzled and delivered. It is always such a pleasure to have you come read to us; whether it is to our little ones for a storytime or to our parents for our Partner-In-Print Workshop! I appreciate your expertise and examples you so vibrantly demonstrate when you come each time. Teachers learn as much as the parents.” 

-Patti Soderberg, Head Start teacher
“Our Early Literacy Outreach Assistant, Susie Miller, always provides us with engaging, memorable story times and language activities. She models for the staff best practices in sharing literature with young children and she delights our students with her novel songs, finger games and puppetry. We especially appreciate the generous gift books that she leaves behind – enough for each child to take one home and two for our classrooms. We love the Early Literacy Services program!”

-Sydney Manning, Head Start teacher

In library branches throughout Fairfax County, parents and children share the joy of participating in storytime activities. Behind the smiling faces and fun, however, lies a serious agenda:  getting Fairfax County’s children ready to read by the time they enter kindergarten. For those parents who are not able to bring their children to storytime, the library offers a unique service to set children on the path to becoming life-long readers. The library’s Early Literacy Services Program, with its traveling outreach staff and a dedicated cadre of 25 volunteers, takes the library on the road to where it is most needed.

Renee Edwards, Early Literacy Services Librarian, describes the program:

Fairfax County Public Library established the Early Literacy Services Program in 2005 to help children develop essential early literacy skills and concepts needed for school readiness. This program strives to connect child care providers and families to the library resources that will help get young children ready for reading and writing.

Early Literacy Services accomplishes these goals in several ways. Library staff and our 25 outreach volunteers present monthly storytimes to preschool children in child care centers and Head Start classrooms throughout Fairfax County. Library storytimes are based on themes (oceans, feelings, winter, etc.) and include books, songs or finger plays. These storytimes model appropriate early literacy strategies and behaviors adults should use when interacting with children to enhance the literacy experience. Since 2008, we have presented almost 5,000 storytimes.

At every storytime, staff and volunteers demonstrate the importance of making books a part of everyday life by giving free picture books to children and their caregivers. This gift extends the outreach visit into the home and is another direct connection to the library. To date, we have given approximately 23,222 picture books to children and child care providers.

Early Literacy Services also presents monthly professional development workshops for the early childhood community. These workshops highlight one or more of the five pre-reading skills needed for school readiness and demonstrate ways adults can use library books and literacy-based activities to help children develop these skills.

For many families in Fairfax County who might not know about or be able to otherwise access library services, now the library goes to them. But the work of Renee’s team extends to all of Fairfax County’s preschoolers. If you aren't able to visit a storytime with your preschooler this week, check out tips from our early literacy experts on the library’s website. You'll also find great book lists, events for preschoolers and information about what’s new in preschool books.

-Renee Edwards, Early Literacy Services
-Ginger Hawkins and Rebecca Wolff, Centreville Regional Library

Have a library story to share?  Let us know in the comments or send us an email!

The post is part of an ongoing series examining the library lives of Fairfax County residents as part of a celebration of the American Library Association’s National Library Week.

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