Living Columns & Blogs

From The Beacon: Libraries promote youth literacy

With the economic downturn that has challenged many in our community, the Beaufort County Public Library System is making a bigger impact than ever.

Usage patterns of library customers indicate they are spending more time in the library and requiring more one-on-one assistance for information to help them better manage and improve their lives. Our branch libraries have become:

  • An economical place where families can find free movies, music, books and programs for which they can no longer afford to pay.
  • A welcoming place where folks can gather, discuss books, current events and support each other in the challenges they share.
  • A place of opportunity where they can find help and hope to develop new job skills to become more marketable in the changing work force.
  • And we're investing in our community's future -- our children -- because we're committed to early childhood literacy. Every time we run a Summer Reading Program, we're keeping the unspoken promise that libraries are institutions that build a love of reading in kids.

    In 2007, we adopted the S.C. State Library's Every Child Ready to Read early childhood literacy initiative. It's intended to reach parents of children not yet in school so that they can achieve the early literacy skills necessary to start school. This month, the Public Library Foundation of Beaufort County was awarded a grant from the Hilton Head Island Foundation to support "WeeRead @ the Library," a specialized early childhood literacy outreach program to connect with new moms and caregivers outside the library to reach those who do not currently use the library.

    This new program component will inform new parents and caregivers about the importance, and necessity, of reading to their children. In combination with our Summer Reading Program this year, the library system expects to engage more than 4,000 children, teens and families in supporting the most important asset a kid could have -- a love of reading.

    Why does that matter? According to the Dominican Study conducted from 2006 to 2009 and funded by the Institute of Museum and Library Science, "Students who participated in the public library summer reading programs scored higher on reading achievement tests at the beginning of their fourth grade than those students who did not participate; (and) reported that they like to read books, like to go to the library and picked their own books to read; and teachers observed that students who participated in the public library summer reading program returned to school ready to learn, perceived reading to be important and increased their fluency and comprehension."

    This is more important than ever for the children of South Carolina. According to the SCKids Count report, "Challenges and Solutions for Early Reading Proficiency," published last May, "while some students come to school already reading or with knowledge and skills enabling them to become proficient readers quickly, many other children are quite unexposed to and unprepared in foundational literacy knowledge, skills and interest." The data are clear -- too many children are at risk of not growing up to become self-supporting adults, good family members and responsible community citizens.

    That's why it's so important to participate with your children in the library system's Summer Reading Program. Registration for youth ages 4 to 17 will begin June 6. This year's theme for children ages 4 to grade 5 is "One World, Many Stories." For students' grades 6 through 12, the theme is "You Are Here." And for adults, the theme is "Novel Destinations." For readers' grades 12 and younger, there will be reading incentives, prizes and medals. These programs are free and open to the public.

    Sandra Saad is the director for Development & Marketing for the Beaufort County Public Library System and serves as the chief development officer for the Public Library Foundation of Beaufort County.