Maryland’s Creating Connections to Grow Readers: It’s Never Too Early initiative was established by the Maryland State Department of Education’s Division of Library Development and Services in 2001. More than 1,000 public librarians statewide have participated in training created by the Johns Hopkins University’s Center for Reading Excellence to align their resources and services to young children birth to five, and their families and caregivers with the Maryland Model for School Readiness.
“A library is often a child’s first classroom, and a lifetime love of books and learning can begin within library walls,” said State Superintendent of Schools Nancy S. Grasmick. “Libraries provide the key to strong early childhood development. They offer critical resources to communities in every part of our State.”
Plans are underway to create a new early literacy interactive space in the Children’s Department at the Bel Air Library. “Continuing to create age and developmentally appropriate resources for our youngest customers is essential in ensuring our children are ready for school,” stated Mary Hastler, Library Director. “Through engaging play, age appropriate materials, and access to innovative programs, the center will encourage early literacy skills essential for school readiness.”
Harford County Public Library currently has many programs that provide early literacy and school readiness for the children in the community.
The Learning and Sharing Collection, created over 35 years ago, is a circulating collection of developmental toys, puppets, puzzles, parenting DVDs, books, and magazines targeted for children from birth through age five. These kits are housed at the Bel Air and Joppa branches and contain over 16,000 items which can be requested and sent to any branch in Harford County.
Opening the Gift is an outreach program where Library staff share books, stories, puppets, songs and finger plays in licensed home daycares. “Participating in story times is an important school readiness activity,” explained Melinda Chase, Opening the Gift librarian. “It provides children with the opportunity to join in a group activity, develop listening skills and self-control, and become comfortable with an adult other than their parent or caregiver.” This program runs from September through May. Interested daycares can contact the Bel Air branch at 410 638 3151 to reserve a space for the upcoming year. Applications are also available online at hcplonline.org/other/outreach.
Sharing the Gift program is a group of volunteers who have been trained by library staff, that visit licensed child care centers and nursery schools to provide story times and early literacy activities for the children. This program runs from October through April.
The Parent Teacher Collection is a selection of books that provide parents and caregivers with creative ideas to enhance their interaction with children from birth through 8th grade.
Programming at the Library branches includes monthly story times with themes like Babies Love Books, ABC’s and 123′s, and Tales for Twos. Upcoming summer story time programming includes Animals Around the World, Journey to Fun! and Kindergarten Kickoff. Over 150,000 customers attend all library programs each year. Details on these programs can be found on the library website at hcplonline.org or in the library newsletter, Headlines & Happenings, available at all branches.
Booklists are available online and in the branches for preschoolers. Titles include Beginning School, Kindergarten Reading List, Merriment with Mother Goose, New Baby Booklist, Seasons: The Changing Year Through Picture Books, and Stories For Age 3.
The Library’s circulation numbers speak for themselves when it comes to the early literacy materials that customers borrow each year. For fiscal year 2010, picture book circulation was over 317,000 including some that are in Spanish. Concept book circulation was 20,800. The Learning and Sharing Collection circulated 26,275 items.
For more information on any of these programs, please go to hclplonline.org or contact your local branch.
Harford County Public Library operates eleven branches located throughout Harford County, Maryland. The library serves over 210,000 registered borrowers of all ages and has an annual circulation of almost 4,700,000. Harford County Public Library is committed to connecting people with information and promoting the love of reading within the community.
Photo caption: Opening The Gift Librarian, Melinda Chase, reads to in-home daycare children.