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Library offers early literacy tips and tools for parents and caregivers

By Janice Keller, Bellingham Public Library

Do you have a baby, toddler or preschooler in your life? You are that child’s first and best teacher!

September is national Library Card Sign-Up Month, and we’re taking the opportunity to encourage parents to sign up their young children for library cards and use proven early literacy practices in their daily lives.

Early literacy experts promote talking, singing, reading, writing and playing beginning at birth to establish a strong foundation for reading and learning. Your local libraries offer many resources to help parents and caregivers get children off to this strong start.

Learning begins at birth

Research shows that about 85% of human brain development occurs in the first three years of life. During this time children’s brains are like sponges: they absorb information from watching, listening, touching and otherwise interacting with the world and people around them.

Many children who start out behind in kindergarten stay behind through high school, according to statistics gathered locally. Encouraging early literacy skills prior to beginning school is important to success in school.  You can begin at birth simply by talking, singing, reading, writing and playing with your child, every day.

Five early literacy practices

Early learning is everything a child experiences and learns in the first years of life, from birth to age 5. Early literacy is a component of early learning, and is specifically what children know about communication and language before they are able to read and write.

We join early literacy experts in promoting these five simple, powerful and fun practices that help establish a strong foundation for learning:

Talking: Children learn by listening and joining in conversations.

Singing: Songs are a natural way for children to learn language.

Reading: Reading together leads to a love for books and helps get children ready to read.

Writing: Scribbling and writing help children learn that written words stand for spoken language.

Playing: Playing helps children put thoughts into words. Children learn through play!

These skills will help prepare them to enter school ready to learn and succeed. Plus they offer wonderful opportunities to bond with the little people in your life!

Videos, handouts offer tips

Check out our new video series for tips and examples of how you can talk, sing, read, write and play with the child in your life, building these practices into your everyday routine. They can be viewed on the Bellingham Public Library website and on BTV10 (Comcast channel 10 in Bellingham and Whatcom County).

This video series is just one of many ways we’re supporting early literacy in our community. We talk, sing, read, write and play in our library storytimes and other programs for young children, and offer information and hands-on early learning centers at all our Bellingham Public Library locations. These resources and more are designed to help parents and caregivers get started at home with proven early literacy practices.

Library cards for children

Another way to inspire a love of reading and learning is getting your child her very own library card! Parents and guardians may sign up their children for youth library cards beginning at birth. Children are proud to have their own cards, and the responsibilities that come with having library cards provide great learning opportunities.

Another benefit: No overdue fines accrue on youth items checked out on youth library cards.

A parent or legal guardian signature is required for library card applicants under age 18, and the signing parent/guardian must be present and provide appropriate identification. For more information about youth library cards, visit any Bellingham Public Library location or www.bellinghampubliclibrary.org

Proven practices support learning

Your libraries offer many wonderful ways to help children build reading, writing and learning skills, all research-based, proven practices endorsed by multiple organizations and delivered to you by caring early literacy experts. Learn more by visiting our Children’s Department at the Central Library downtown, or visit the Bellingham Public Library website at www.bellinghampubliclibrary.org.

Janice Keller is the Communications, Community Relations, & Programming Manager for the Bellingham Public Library.