Earlier this week, Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz helped to kick off Read Across Maryland, a month-long project to promote early childhood literacy. Our state’s program is a local version of Read Across America, established in 1998 by the National Education Association. It is celebrated on March 2 every year, in honor of the birthday of Theodor Seuss Geisel—affectionately known to children of all ages as Dr. Seuss.
Here in Baltimore County, Read Across Maryland began with a first birthday party for Storyville at the Woodlawn Branch of the Baltimore County Public Library. Storyville is a center for early childhood literacy, and features a variety of venues specially-designed to promote the development of important kindergarten academic readiness skills. During its first year of operation alone, the Woodlawn Storyville attracted nearly 55,000 visitors.
The dozens of children in attendance heard the county executive read Don’t Spill the Beans, a book about keeping a secret. Fortunately for Baltimore County residents, our elected officials over the years have never wanted to keep our libraries a secret from the public.
Some of the most important services offered by our local libraries are those that promote early childhood literacy. Study after study has clearly demonstrated that children who are read to before they enter school are more likely to be successful students. One of the most cited studies in supporting that claim has been the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study, conducted by the National Center for Education Statistics.
This study followed the progress of a group of children from their entry into kindergarten in 1998-1999, up to their eighth-grade school year. The findings of the ECLS indicated several positive learning traits exhibited by the children who were read to at least three times per week as they entered kindergarten:
- 76 percent had mastered the letter-sound relationship at the beginning of words, compared with 64 percent of children who were read to fewer than three times a week,
- 57 percent had mastered the letter-sound relationship at the end of words, compared with 43 percent who were read to fewer than three times a week,
- 15 percent had sight-word recognition skills, compared with 8 percent who were read to fewer than three times a week, and
- 5 percent could understand words in context, compared with 2 percent who were read to fewer than three times a week.
Ihe study also indicated that by the spring 2000, those children who were read to at least three times a week by a family member were almost twice as likely to score in the top 25 percent in reading compared with children who were read to less than three times a week. These clear patterns of success were part of the reason why "Read Across America" and its state-level partners were created.
The Maryland initiative's main goal is to encourage parents to read at least 30 minutes a day to their children for 30 days in a row. Library systems across the state have scheduled a variety of programs to give families the chance to visit their local library for special reading events.
Certainly here in Perry Hall, we have ready access to fabulous story time programming at our new branch library. Or perhaps you can swing down to the Rosedale Branch and join the more than 225,000 visitors who have stopped by the Rosedale Storyville, which opened in 2008.
A complete listing of all Read Across Maryland events being held at BCPL branches can be found here.