Suzanne Hall, the children's librarian at Putnam County Public Library, was the guest speaker at the recent Greencastle Kiwanis meeting.
She spoke to the members about her year-long project of teaching early literacy awareness to parents and caregivers.
Hall, who holds a master's degree in library science, received training from the American Library Association (ALA) to be part of their project entitled "Every Child Ready to Read at Your Library."
According to Hall, the ALA started the project a few years ago. This year, with a grant she received from the Community Foundation, Hall said she has met with approximately 200 parents and caregivers to speak about early literacy.
The ALA defines early literacy as what children know about reading and writing before they learn how to do it.
"We think about children learning to read in the first grade," Hall said. "But the learning process can't start too early."
According to both Hall and the ALA, parents can start to teach their children pre-reading skills as early as birth. Hall said babies and young children, who learn with their senses, can show many signs of early interests in reading.
Examples could be chewing on books, asking to hear a story multiple times, and pretending to read.
Hall went on to explain the six pre-reading skills she explains to parents and caregivers are print motivation, print awareness, knowing and recognizing letters, strong vocabulary, phonological awareness, and narrative skills.
"Songs help a lot [with phonological awareness]," Hall said. "And nursery rhymes just can't be beat."
The ALA said parents can help their children hone these skills all the way up to 5 years of age.
Some of the instruments Hall offers parents and caregivers at her meeting are picture cards and free books.
She said the picture cards are for recognizing objects to build vocabulary and phonological awareness, and the free books can range from baby word books to favorites like "Clip Clop."
The ALA stated that when parents entered the program, an average of 30 percent read to their children. Upon leaving the program, 60 percent claimed to read to their kids.
As for illiterate parents, Hall said a lot of them are not motivated or cannot access the meetings.
But she said they should try because they could learn valuable skills, as well.
"You don't have to just read the book," she said. "Talk about it."
Hall said her grant support lasts until the end of this year, and she hopes to talk to many more people before then.
"If people know the importance [of early literacy], they will implement it," she said.
For more information on the ALA's project, visit http://www.ala.org/everychild.