Viewpoint

Give children a head start in the race toward literacy

From Ann Clark, Deputy Superintendent, Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools, and David Singleton, Director of Libraries, Charlotte Mecklenburg Library:

When we talk about how schools and libraries work together to promote literacy in Charlotte-Mecklenburg, we often us the metaphor of a relay race.

Before children start school at age five, libraries carry the baton by providing free services like storytimes that foster pre-literacy skills, workshops for parents, and lots and lots of books. These services ensure that children enter school ready to read. When children enter preschool or kindergarten, the schools take the baton – but they still pass it back to libraries on evenings, weekends and during the summer. Throughout a child’s life and into adulthood, schools and libraries are running alongside them, encouraging them to read and expand their minds, sharing the literacy baton.

The Charlotte Mecklenburg Library’s biggest leg of the race is Summer Reading, an annual program that encourages reading during the summer months. Summer reading programs have been around a long time, but what makes ours special is this partnership between the Library and Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools.

A few years ago the Library made major changes to Summer Reading, such as starting pre-registration in May and moving the program online, to enable more collaboration with CMS. As a result, half of all CMS schools participated in Summer Reading last year; some with over 100 participants per school. Overall, 24,000 people read 21 million minutes last summer – a 52 percent increase in reading and 10 percent increase in participation from the previous year.

An essential skill

As soon as results were gathered for last summer, Library and CMS leadership began preparing for this year, with the goal of increasing all of those outcomes. Reading is an essential skill for all students, as was evidenced this past school year with the implementation of North Carolina’s Read to Achieve Program, which required all students to pass the state’s reading test by third grade.

Research shows that reading and literacy in children and teenagers is a strong predictor of educational achievement and career success, which is why we cannot drop the baton, especially during the summer months when academic gains children made during each school year can erode significantly.

We ask that every child, teen, and adult in Charlotte-Mecklenburg join us in this race by signing up for Summer Reading today at www.cmlibrary.org/summerread.

The program officially begins June 11, with kick-off events for all ages all around the community. We each have a role in carrying the literacy baton, and the more hands, the better.

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