Young children whose parents read to them are more likely to become successful readers once they reach kindergarten.
That's why the Cabarrus County Public Library is offering free workshops for parents to help build pre-reading skills in their children.
The four-session workshops, modeled on the American Library Association's "Every Child Ready to Read" program. started Jan. 5 for English-speaking parents and Jan. 12 for Spanish-speaking parents.
Thus far, 18 families are taking advantage of the service, said Susan Suarez-Webster, the library's family literacy coordinator.
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Any Cabarrus County parent with a child from infancy to age 5 may participate. Five-year-olds must not yet be in kindergarten.
"We could take a few more parents," said Suarez-Webster, who started in the position in November.
Parents learn simple techniques that will help engage their children in reading and skill-building activities.
The workshops are free. Parents get a free book each time they complete a 45-minute session, plus take-home activities and educational toys.
"At the end, the family has their own small, personal library of children's books, either in Spanish or English," Suarez-Webster said.
The goal of the program, she said, is for parents to make a habit of reading with their children on a daily basis.
"The long-term result is that we will have lifelong readers and learners," Suarez-Webster said.
"Our lives are so busy with e-mail and our Blackberry and computers," she said. "We're just not reading aloud like we used to. New parents have to be encouraged and motivated to read. Otherwise, we just forget!"
The sessions are administered by the library with money from the Cabarrus Partnership for Children and Smart Start.
"It's a perfect fit," Suarez-Webster said of the partnership. "Without them, we couldn't do this."
Because the Concord library closes at 7 p.m. and the sessions begin at 6:30 p.m., the current series is taking place in the community room at Forest Hill United Methodist Church, 265 Union St., Concord.
A fifth session will take place at the Concord main library, 27 Union St. N., where families can get a tour of the library and sign up for library cards if they don't have them.
The next series of classes, which begins Feb. 15, will meet at the Kannapolis branch library, 850 Mountain St., Kannapolis. The sessions will repeat for several months, Suarez-Webster said.
In preparing for the workshops, Suarez-Webster learned that a child who knows just eight nursery rhymes by age 4 has a chance at being a better reader by age 8.
Suarez-Webster said she's pleased that the program is off to a good start: "We want this to be momentum that is building, and we want each session to be better."
Advance registration is required for the workshops. If you'd like information about the library's family literacy workshops, call Susan Suarez-Webster or Maria Bailey at 704-956-3931 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.