Library Supporting Early Childhood Literacy for Columbus Children

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Reading is an essential building block for a child’s ability to grow and succeed. Without basic reading skills, the world is a frustrating place, hard to understand, and with barriers all around. Providing children in Columbus with the right tools, experiences and family support to help them become proficient readers is a cornerstone of Columbus Metropolitan Library’s Young Minds strategy.

CML has long been committed to enriching and supporting childhood literacy throughout the Columbus area. Particular need for early literacy support came into focus in 2014, when the success of CML as one the country’s best library systems was juxtaposed with continuing under performance by Columbus children in basic literacy. CML set out to make a positive impact, and has done so by providing programs and support to children and their families in a wide variety of ways. Here are some of the key initiatives CML focuses on to promote strong development of reading skills for children in Columbus.

Kindergarten Readiness

Storytimes – CML holds thousands of Storytimes every year at branches throughout the city. It’s a fun and interactive way to teach children Ready for Kindergarten skills such as words, songs and vocabulary. Writing activities even for very young children have been shown to help develop the motor skills needed to begin to form letters. As a result, toddler and preschool Storytimes also include age appropriate writing activities such as writing the letter of the day and name writing. 

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Storytime at the library includes music and reading.

Book Lessons – A parent-focused service where CML staff demonstrate how to use picture books to teach early literacy skills to pre-Kindergarten children. Book Lessons encourage parent-child conversations guided by the targeted skills. Book Lesson “homework” sheets for parents identify literacy activities corresponding to specific books for babies, toddlers and preschool age groups.

Ready for K Areas – Yellow school buses welcome young children to special Ready for Kindergarten areas in some of CML’s branches. Creating a space targeted at the youngest group of children and providing physical surroundings that give an added comfort level with aspects of beginning school add to the resources provided by CML.

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The yellow school bus is an inviting landmark for children to find the Ready for Kindergarten area in many CML branches

Ready for Kindergarten – Classes served 491 customers who attended 53 Ready for K classes throughout the CML system. Children 3 to 5 years of age receive instruction in kindergarten readiness skills. During class, participants “play school.” Children practice writing, learning letters, using scissors and other important skills needed for kindergarten success. Parents learn how to support these skills at home and get practice in working on those skills during class time. Ready for Kindergarten classes focus on getting children off to a strong start with the literacy skills they need to become successful readers.

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At the Linden branch children learn about parts of the book and create name boxes by writing their names, cutting, coloring and gluing

Ready to Read Home Visitation and Bookmobile

Bookmobile – The Ready to Read bookmobile (named Rosie!) is stocked with children’s books and staffed by 8 CML employees, who focus on helping parents and caregivers learn and implement early literacy activities in their own homes. The home visit program consists of 12 home visits per family where basic early literacy skills, such as initial sounds, rhyming, letter knowledge and vocabulary, are emphasized. The focus is repetition of these skills, which are directly linked to kindergarten readiness and later passage of the Ohio 3rd grade reading test. During each visit, the child receives a copy of the book featured in the lesson, and parents are assigned homework to practice in between. The home visit program visited roughly 200 homes a month and served 500-800 families in 2015.

In addition to home visits, the Ready to Read Corps also visit job and family services welcome centers, food pantries, WIC offices and pediatric centers to reach additional families and their children where they spend significant time. The Ready to Read program has a measurable impact.  The program positively transforms parents’ attitudes about learning for themselves and their children, as has been shown in a formal evaluation by CML in partnership with The Ohio State University.

Support for 3rd grade reading test

Reading Buddies – Provides essential one-on-one reading practice to students in grades K-3. Studies show that kids become better readers through extra reading practice. During 2015, over 6,200 students participating in Reading Buddies read with adult volunteers and staff members after school at each of CML’s branches. Reading Buddies work with the students to help them sound out words and test their comprehension. This fall each child participating in Reading Buddies received a free book made possible by a donation from the Ohio Dept. of Job and Family Services. Reading Buddies is particularly critical since Columbus 3rd graders must pass Ohio’s State Test in English Language Arts to move on to 4th grade. CML’s additional support was one of the factors boosting the pass rate to 90% in the 2015-16 school year from 87% in the 2013-14 school year.

Abdulnas Ali reads to Amanda Stephen during the Reading Buddies program at the Karl Road Branch of the Columbus Metropolitan Library on Tuesday, May 5. The popular program pairs students in kinndergarten through third grade with volunteers who either listen to the students read or read to them. Abdulnas Ali reads to Amanda Stephen during the Reading Buddies program at the Karl Rd Library Tuesday, May 5, 2015.

Reading Buddies provides one on one reading practice in support of the 3rd Grade Reading test.

School Book Delivery – Beginning in 2014 CML has provided monthly delivery of classroom “kits” to 23 public elementary schools in Columbus to support reading instruction and lessons in those schools. The kits consist of 30 high interest fiction and non-fiction books delivered to schools identified as having low scores in kindergarten readiness or on the 3rd grade reading test or schools lacking libraries, staff and current books. Participating schools reported that the books had a positive impact on the students’ enthusiasm for reading and that students loved the books and were excited to open the kits to see what books were inside.

Kids Cards CML offers a special library card just for kids, called the Kids Card, that removes barriers preventing children from accessing the library’s collections. Kids under 17 can sign up for the Kids Card without a parent’s signature, which entitle them to check out up to 5 books at a time and provide full access to Homework Help Centers and computers at each branch. The Kids Card does not impose fines. CML has issued approximately 29,000 Kids Cards as of October, 2016. The Kids Card fosters a sense of responsibility, pride and ownership in children by allowing them to manage their library items. All children who enrolled in the 2016 summer reading program were asked to sign up for their own library card. This is part of CML’s effort with the White House’s ConnectED Initiative, which seeks to ensure that all students have library access to the resources they need to thrive in the 21st century.

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Library Impact

The impact of library programs supporting the literacy of young children in the Columbus area is significant. The programs provide young children and their families with a variety of resources, allowing them to take advantage of the programs that provide them the most benefit. CML’s Young Minds initiative puts increased early literacy of children throughout central Ohio as its core mission. Our children are stronger readers and better able to thrive both inside and outside of school, in part, due to the work of the library.

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