Friday, March 4, 2011

Children Need Great Beginnings

It seems to me that great beginnings often have one thing in common, great stories. For example, the founding of our country is wrapped up in a great story. It has all the ingredients of an action packed thriller. Rebellion against a tyrant. Men and women who never gave up the fight even when it seemed that they were losing the battle. Leaders who inspired their men and became legends for generations to come. Who couldn't love a story that has a powerful beginning? Which got me to thinking that every child should have a great beginning which centers around their own great story.

March is the month of the young child and in the county where I live and work there is an annual community breakfast where professionals and community leaders are invited to learn how different agencies are helping young children, from birth to five years, to get a "Great Start" in education. It is in these crucial first five years that a child's mind absorbs the world around them and influences how they will develop. According to the National Scientific Council on the Developing Child, "Early Experiences determine whether a child's developing brain architecture provides a strong or weak foundation for all future learning, behavior and health." This speaks volumes on the need for parents to rely on libraries to help them give their child a rich opportunity to learn and grow.

Family Literacy programs should be an important part of every public library's services. These programs provide new parents with tools to introduce reading as a healthy habit for growing minds. As a librarian, I can not count the number of times I have been asked by new parents "How old should my baby be when I start to read to them?" My response is always the same, "From day one." A baby is never too young to hear a great story. Libraries are the perfect solutions to providing a wealth of books, movies and music without the additional strain on the family's budget. Besides that, libraries provide the space where children can explore, experiment and examine the world around them. The books children read today will shape them into the citizens of tomorrow. The stories that touch their hearts will create passionate leaders of our community who go out to make a difference. This is not an exaggeration. it has been proven in studies that children from low income families tend to do poorly in school. Is this because poor families have children with low IQ? Not at all. It simply means that the resources in urban areas are not readily available to children as they are in wealthier suburbs. (This is why it boils my blood to see that urban public libraries are closing their doors due to lack of funding. That is a story for another day.) Reaching out to young families early on not only establishes a relationship between the library and the community but it also provides the foundation for a strong, prosperous community.

Which brings me back to my original point. Children need to have a great beginning in order to be able to share their own great story. They are so eager to learn and to grow that to deprive them of the opportunity to have a great beginning is criminal. it does not take much to help a child discover their world. Especially these days where there are so many different avenue to pursue to stimulate learning in a child. It can be as simple as a wooden spoon which allows or as complex as a computer game which teaches shapes and colors. My personal favorite are board books. They are perfect for reading and chewing! During this month of the Young Child, make a commitment to do something to help a young child with their great beginning. How? It's as easy as picking up a book and sharing it with your favorite little one. If you need help in deciding what book to read, go to your library and ask the children's librarian for suggestions. As a matter of fact, you may even want to bring your favorite youngster with you to enjoy a story time together. You never know this could be the start of something big!
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