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Parents and educators are worried about learning and literacy loss as a result of pandemic-related school closures, remote learning, and teacher shortages. As partners in literacy and learning, libraries are also concerned and working to collaborate with parents and teachers to foster literacy skills and support learning.
Teachers and parents do an admirable job teaching children to read, but somewhere along the way, many kids stop reading for pleasure. Public libraries provide opportunities to fuel a lifetime love of learning that benefits every child.
Even before they start school, library story times like Mother Goose on the Loose introduce very young children to the structure and purpose of books, the link between written and spoken words, and the pleasure of stories, rhymes, and songs. Adults enthusiastic about sharing books and stories plants in children a lasting positive association with literature. Board books, open-the-flap, textured page, and bright and colorful story books at the library let little hands explore books in different ways. The pandemic has forced story times to adapt, moving online or outdoors. As we eagerly anticipate the return of in-person Mother Goose on the Loose and preschool story times, the youth services specialists at the Pittsylvania County Public Library have offered safer alternatives, including online story times, take-home book bags and crafts, by-appointment story times for individual families, and outdoor story walks.
One popular new addition to PCPL library shelves are Wonderbooks – picture and chapter books with audiobooks embedded in the cover. These books allow parents and children to enjoy a book together with a professional narrator and soundtrack, or a child can listen to the same story on repeat on their own. The desire of children to be read a favorite story over and over, while sometimes annoying the adult doing the reading, helps children learn to read by reinforcing the connection between specific sounds and written words. Wonderbooks let children to enjoy that repetition while their adult caretakers are busy with other tasks.
Struggling or reluctant readers also benefit from graphic novels at the library like the Diary of a Wimpy Kid, Stick Dog, or even Captain Underpants book series. These heavily illustrated books and more comic-book style traditional graphic novels do not overwhelm a struggling reader with a sea of print. The graphics add interest and help the reader to understand the story. Adults may not always find the humor or the storylines appealing, but kids certainly do – and these books can spark interest in more traditional print books. Some graphic novels tackle historical and non-fiction topics in a more approachable and age-appropriate way, such as John Lewis’s March trilogy or George Takei’s They Called Us Enemy.
Research has shown that children who grow up in homes with books in them perform better in school. Libraries are a great, free way to keep a home stocked with books that cater to young readers’ changing interests. PCPL staff also stock nine Little Laundromat Libraries around the county to make books available to children and adults between wash loads. Thanks to a generous donation of children’s books provided by the Soho Center and the Library of Virginia, PCPL is also giving away books for children to own and keep. PCPL has partnered with Pittsylvania County Schools, private schools and day care providers, and hosted giveaways at our libraries and other events to give away approximately 6,000 books in 2021. We will give away another 6,000 books to children in 2022.
The Pittsylvania County Public Library strives to foster an environment for learning and reading for pleasure for people of all ages. One of the best ways to instill a love of reading in children is to demonstrate it at home. Bring children to the library. Get them a library card – they are free and there is no age minimum, but children’s cards must be linked to an adult’s card (so get your own library card if you don’t already have one!). Let them pick out books for themselves -- it doesn’t matter if the book looks “too hard” or if they want to check out more books than they might read. It doesn’t matter if they don’t finish a book or story that doesn’t interest them. The same is true for adults. Let your children see their adults selecting and enjoying books. You don’t have to finish them if you don’t like them. Just bring them back on time. Hint: kids love dropping books into the book drop!