November 11, 2011
Arlington’s Youngest Residents Visit the Central Library to “Learn Well”
Marveling wide-eyed at the tall stacks of books, the tiny
pre-kindergarten students quietly followed each other through the
Arlington Central Library’s Children’s Department. They sang and
laughed with librarian Laureen Jacobs, excitedly pointed out the
Clifford poster on the wall and beamed when they were entrusted with
their first library card and bright red book bag.
The smallest library visitors arrived by school bus from Rankin
Elementary School, which is part of an early-literacy effort aimed
at 18 Title I Arlington Independent School District elementary
schools that feed into Sam Houston High School.
The United Way’s “Learn Well” educational initiative is designed to
boost on-time graduation rates. The ten-year effort, which began
last year, funds strategies that promote early learning among
pre-school children, reading skills among children in grades 1-3,
and career and graduation planning for middle school students. The
work starts with the school district’s youngest.
Strategies include encouraging parent participation, identifying and
intervening with at-risk students, and collaborating with community
organizations like the Arlington Public Library.
Neva Huston, who teaches bilingual pre-schoolers at Rankin, said
that after her students visit the library, they mimic what they see.
“They’re taking more enjoyment in books and going into the classroom
library and pretending to read,” she said.
The AISD collaboration with the public library also encourages
regular library outings between children and their parents.
“Now they’re bugging their parents to come to the library,” Huston
said. “It all starts with them.”
“It’s about getting parents to be their child’s first teacher,” said
Cary Siegfried, the library director.
She said the Arlington Public Library and United Way have joined to
work with the school district toward a similar goal.
“It’s wonderful because a lot of parents who might not come into a
library, have a lot of trust in their child’s school,” Siegfried
said. “It’s a great way to let them know about library services.”
Other early childhood literacy efforts include weekly story times at
all library locations designed specifically for babies, toddlers,
preschoolers, and families. The library also takes early childhood
literacy programs to the area schools by offering Lee y Serás (Read
and You Will Be), a national early literacy initiative that empowers
families and communities to foster children’s literacy development.
In addition, Life Through Literacy, a program designed to inform
expecting and parenting teens on ways they can develop early
literacy skills, is also offered at area high schools.
Siegfried said the library staff benefits from the partnership, too.
“It’s so much fun to see the kids coming off the school bus and then
leave the library with their library cards and red bags,” she said.
“It’s the best part of my day.”
As the children boarded the bus back to school, Librarian Jacobs
waved and called out: “Use your library card and come see me again.
And bring your mom and dad.”