Talking, reading, singing, writing, playing key to early learning

Children's Library Specialist Bernice Chang, left, reads books about cats for Luca Pasquini, 4, and other kids during Time for Tales in January 2013 at the Bellingham Public Library.
Children's Library Specialist Bernice Chang, left, reads books about cats for Luca Pasquini, 4, and other kids during Time for Tales in January 2013 at the Bellingham Public Library. THE BELLINGHAM HERALD

The first day of school is a big deal. Life changes drastically on that day,whether it's the first day of pre-school or a doctorate program. All students must prepare on some level, but it's probably kindergarteners who have to prepare the most. Ideally, they've been preparing since birth!

What can a parent do to ensure their child is ready? Your Whatcom County and Bellingham Public libraries have many books to help young students understand what to expect from a new school. Most of your favorite picture book characters have been through the "new school" dilemma. You can look at the experiences of Pete the Cat, Llama Llama, and Amelia Bedelia among others to help your child learn what to expect from that big first day.

Sharing school-themed picture books is a good start. But even more important is what you can do to help your child prepare for the learning that will occur in that first year of kindergarten. It's easy to incorporate a few simple practices into your daily routine that will pay off big when your child enters school.

The American Library Association has created an early literacy initiative called Every Child Ready to Read to help parents and caregivers to be their child's first and best teacher. Every Child Ready to Read focuses on the "5 Practices" of talking, reading, singing, writing and playing to prepare your child for reading and learning success. A child who gets exposure to many new words, can rhyme and sing, can tell a story, identifies printed letters and enjoys books will have a much easier time learning to read than a child who has not practiced these five skills.

Early learning success is easy at your local public library. Knowledgeable early learning professionals run lively and fun storytimes that encourage participation and engage children in the five practices. Young children and caregivers delight in storytime and find that learning is fun!

Early learning "play spaces" are available in all local public libraries, equipped with toys, furniture and props that encourage adults and children to interact with each other, have conversations, get creative and practice early literacy skills. Rather than using computers, these library spaces focus on encouraging human interaction because young children learn best through experiences that involve a caring, reactive human being and three dimensional toys, props and books.

Get your child a free library card and check out some of your library's large collection of children's materials to practice at home as well. In the children's area you'll find picture books, board books, CDs, downloadable music and early literacy kits. Kits include specially selected books, adult resources, CDs and toys or props that help you start practicing each early literacy skill with your child.

You'll also find additional picture book collections for early learners in sections called "Very Young" for babies and toddlers and "Concepts" (ABCs, counting, shapes, etc.). These bright and beautiful books were chosen to be read out loud and encourage conversation. Ask open-ended questions and relate the story to real-life events.

It's never too late or too early to get started, so come to the library and pack up a backpack full of reading readiness tools. You'll be glad you did when that first day of Kindergarten comes along!


"Three Little Kittens," Jerry Pinkney's beautifully illustrated book is a great choice for practicing rhyming, reading and talking that has expressive feline characters and a simple, relatable story.

"Max and Ruby's Treasure Hunt" by Rosemary Wells. This interactive book uses nursery rhymes for clues in a treasure hunt. The five practices happen naturally with this charmer.

"How Do Dinosaurs Go to School?" by Jane Yolen and Mark Teague. A good choice for this time of year, and one of the many titles in this excellent series. In each book childlike dinosaurs interact with humans in hilarious ways that show the right (and wrong) way to behave.

"Pop Fly" by Justin Roberts. Singing helps kids get ready to read in multiple ways. Roberts is an excellent children's musician and his CD includes a poignant first day of school song called, "Giant Size Butterflies."


Theresa Hadley is the children's librarian for the Whatcom County Library System.