Every time a library staff member visits one of our Jump Start Reading program sites, we are amazed at the progress the children are making with early reading skills. We target program sites in low income, high risk neighborhoods and many of the children we serve cannot demonstrate any pre-literacy skills. However, after only two in a half months of working with the children, caregivers and parents, there is a recognizable change in the children's knowledge and interest towards books and reading.
Connie Ellington facilitating parent workshop
JJ is a three year old student at one of our Jump Start Reading Sites. He was very reluctant to participate in the library program and he was always the last child to sit down for story time. When Connie Ellington, the "Library Lady" (the name the children use affectionately) came to visit on this particular day, JJ had a surprise. JJ asked if he could read a book to her today. He selected three books from the books shelf. He demonstrated several of the pre-literacy skills used in the Every Child Ready to Read curriculum. He modeled reading, he held the book and turned the pages properly, he pointed to the words on the pages and he talked about the illustrations. Through our department encounters, we learned that many students enter kindergarten without the ability to demonstrate these pre-literacy skills. Since JJ's daycare teachers and parents are learning these skills with him, we hope he will continue to learn long after the program ends. The Jump Start Reading program supports the long term learning experience by giving JJ books to take home to begin or enhance a home library and the daycare center that JJ attends will receive fifty books to continue the reading experience. The parents and children also participate in a library tour allowing parents to see all the free resources offered at and through the library. They can have tools and support to continue to be their child's first teacher.
Learning that print represents words
JJ is one of many children who receives literacy support form the library. Child care providers and parents are learning the five simple activities (talking, singing, reading, writing and playing) that they can use to help children get ready to read. Most importantly, JJ is receiving skills and tools that will help him succeed in school and beyond!
Impact, outcome measurements, stakeholders, CEO, partnerships, return on investment; these are not terms you associate with the business of operating a public library. However, these terms and actions are part of the structure of Charlotte Mecklenburg Library. With limited community resources and high community need and demand, the library has to be able to tell its story, demonstrate community impact and effectively communicate its benefits and values to our customers and stakeholders.
Don't stop reading. The first paragraph is as technical as it will get! The best way to share how the library impacts our community is through our customers. Three customers share how the library made a difference in their life. Their experience demonstrates how the library's supports community issues through programs that address workforce development and life long learning.
Meet Josefina. Josefina takes advantage of weekly library sponsered computer classes offered at the Latin American Coalition. Josefina learned how to use the computer and Internet to fill out job applications and government forms. After completing the classes Josefina said, "Imagine when I apply to become a US citizen. I can do it through the Internet and I did fill out all of those legal documents through the Internet without paying a penny."
Jose Luis is also a student in the computer class. He said he has learned many things about computers including how to write his own resume, apply for a job and use the Internet!
Luis attends programs at Shamrock Senior Center. Library staff provides bi-monthly literacy programs to customers who speak Spanish as their first language. Luis believes library programs help the seniors become better thinkers. "Our brains are more active and we learn how to express ourselves in a better way. When you reach old age, we need more support, and that is why these types of programs are very useful."
My 84 year old Aunt-in-law loves to hear stories about library programs. When I visit her, which I do often because she lives across the street, she always says, "Meryle, tell them (other family members) what you do at the library, its amazing. For the longest time, I thought you just checked out books." I am happy to share stories of the library's impact and value. I love to tell her how Josefina and Luis benefited from personal assistance that will help them find jobs and build their workforce skills. My aunt understood how Luis felt about the literacy classes at the senior center and she new first hand how important this service is to healthy aging. Your library, Charlotte Mecklenburg Library, continues to be more than fixture in the community. It is an institution that supports the critical needs of the people and community it serves. And yes Nanny, we still have books!