By Toni Massari McPherson
Anchorage Public Library’s Ready To Read Learning Center has added a fourth kit to its collection, designed to promote early literacy skills to youngsters, 0-3, throughout the state. The new Read With Me Bag gives toddlers the opportunity for hands-on experience with books. Each of the 25 themed bags includes 10 board books, a puppet or toy, as well as activity suggestions and informational sheets for parents and caregivers.
“Young children learn through their senses,” says Terri Weckerle, director of the RRRC which is housed behind the scenes in APL’s Z.J. Loussac Public Library. “This bag includes sturdy books that they can play with, touch, even stick in their mouths. As they are exposed to the books, they will learn about print and about how to hold a book and turn the pages.”
Weckerle emphasizes the importance of social interaction when a child is playing with books. “Toddlers pay attention to what you do and copy it. By showing them how to turn the pages, pointing out the different elements on each page and, of course, reading to them, parents can really boost their children’s pre-literacy skills.”
Early literacy is not about flash cards or teaching toddlers the alphabet, Weckerle explains. It’s playing with blocks and puzzles to learn shapes. It’s singing songs to develop a toddler’s ability to sound out words and to listen. It’s talking to very young kids to expand their vocabularies so they have a bank of words to draw on when they are learning to read.
Established in 2008, the Ready to Read Resource Center is an Anchorage Public Library resource with a statewide focus. The Center is funded by a grant from the Alaska State Library. Weckerle started building the RRRC collection with 50 Ready to Read Tubs which includes 30-50 board books and picture books, and are designed to be checked out by child care providers, day care centers and libraries across the state.
The next element of the RRRC collection to be introduced was the Read to Me at Home Tub. Each of the 40 tubs contains 10 canvas bags with three board books in each bag. Rural libraries can request the tubs through Inter-library Loan and promote local pre-literacy skills by checking the bags out to individual families within the villages. Child care providers can circulate the take home bags to the families that they are working with to encourage reading at home.
The 42 different themed Lapsit Bags contain five-to-six books, along with a music CD, and a puppet or prop The bags also include suggestions for fingerplays, songs and action rhymes. Libraries, day care centers, and even parents can hold their own storytimes. However, since the pages of the books in the Lapsit Bags are paper, children cannot play with them. That’s where the new Read With Me Bags come in.
“The Read With Me Bags are the logical next step to our collection,” Weckerle says. “Because board books are so sturdy, little kids have a chance to really get acquainted with books.” For more information about the RRRC program and the themes of the bags, go to http://readytoreadak.org/.