Li­brary pro­gram en­cour­ages early lit­er­acy

Li­brary pro­gram en­cour­ages early child­hood lit­er­acy

Maryland Independent - - Front Page - By SARA NEW­MAN snew­man@somd­ Twit­ter: @in­dy_­com­mu­nity

When Kathy and Dar­ryl Al­massy were told of their daugh­ter’s di­ag­no­sis, they knew they would have to come up with al­ter­na­tive ac­tiv­i­ties for their ac­tive child be­cause sports would be out of the ques­tion.

Gabriella, 3, was di­ag­nosed with Eh­lers-Dan­los Syn­drome (EDS), an in­her­ited dis­or­der that af­fects the skin, joints and blood ves­sels. Gabriella is par­tic­u­larly prone to bruis­ing and break­ing bones as her par­ents saw with her older sis­ter, Jessica.

“There’s not a bone in her body that hasn’t been bro­ken,” Kathy said of Jessica, 18.

Af­ter years of hear­ing from doc­tors that her daugh­ter’s in­juries while play­ing sports were noth­ing alarm­ing, the fam­ily re­ceived the di­ag­no­sis.

“Our lives changed be­cause it af­fects Jessica’s heart,” Kathy said. Though her di­ag­no­sis didn’t im­pede her abil­ity to suc­ceed — Jessica was vale­dic­to­rian of her class at Thomas Stone High School last year — it changed the way the fam­ily ap­proached phys­i­cal ac­tiv­i­ties.

“With Gabby, we know we can’t do sports, so we’re try­ing to find other things to en­ter­tain her and that can be very hard,” Kathy said. “We’re try­ing to get [Gabby] more in­ter­ested in read­ing.”

A fre­quent par­tic­i­pant of Charles County Pub­lic Li­brary pro­grams, Kathy dis­cov­ered the 500 by 5 read­ing pro­gram. Par­ents are en­cour­aged to read 500 books with their chil­dren by the time they turn 5.

“[Gabby] loves to read, but her in­ter­est has grown so much through do­ing this,” Kathy said. “You can see the dif­fer­ence in the in­ter­est level. It’s given her a goal.”

“The over­all goal is to en­cour­age par­ents to read to their chil­dren and get them ready for school,” Glenda Fields, chil­dren’s su­per­vi­sor at Wal­dorf West li­brary, said of the pro­gram. “We point out how read­ing in­creases their vo­cab­u­lary and speech skills, helps with their crit­i­cal and log­i­cal think­ing and en­cour­age them to de­velop a love for read­ing early on.”

About 150 chil­dren have com­pleted the challenge since its in­cep­tion in Charles County in 2013, but Kathy said she knows a lot of par­ents who have never heard of the pro­gram.

“We tr y to en­cour­age par­ents to read to their chil­dren even when they’re ba­bies,” Fields said.

Kathy and Dar­ryl also stressed the bond­ing op­por­tu­nity early read­ing presents.

“[Gabby] will sit on our laps when we’re read­ing and it’s great one on one time we get to have with her,” Kathy said.

Par­tic­i­pants log the books they read and can turn it in to any Charles County Pub­lic Li­brar y once they reach 500. The child then re­ceives a cer­tifi­cate with their name on it, a crown to dec­o­rate and their pic­ture is added to the li­brary’s 500 by 5 Wall of Fame.

The recog­ni­tion is part of what ex­cites kids about the pro­gram, Fields said.

“The kids re­ally want their pic­ture up [on the wall] and once their pic­ture gets up there they feel very proud,” Fields said. “Some of them show their friends and it gets spread that way. We see fam­i­lies with sib­lings and when the younger sib­ling sees the older sib­ling com­plete it, they then want their pic­ture on the wall as well.”

Fields said the pro­gram is pro­moted dur­ing the li­brar y’s var­i­ous pop­u­lar Sto­ry­time pro­grams.

“We have posters around the li­brary but I make an ef­fort to talk about it at Sto­ry­time so the par­ents know it’s an on­go­ing event,” Fields said.

“What do you do with a child that’s ac­tive but can’t be ac­tive?” Kathy said. “The only thing that’s out there and that’s free is the li­brary. We’d love to see more op­por­tu­ni­ties for pro­grams and chal­lenges like this. [Gabby] is not the only one that has a heart prob­lem and ben­e­fits from pro­grams like th­ese.”


Kathy and Dar­ryl Al­massy en­cour­aged their daugh­ter, Gabriella, 3, to com­plete the 500 by 5 read­ing pro­gram. The cou­ple said the challenge en­cour­aged their daugh­ter’s in­ter­est in read­ing at a young age.


Pho­tos of chil­dren who have com­pleted the 500 by 5 read­ing pro­gram hang at P.D. Brown Me­mo­rial Li­brary in Wal­dorf. The pro­gram pro­motes early lit­er­acy in preschool aged chil­dren.


Gabriella Al­massey, 3, re­cently com­pleted the 500 by 5 read­ing pro­gram and re­ceived a cer­tifi­cate and her pic­ture on the 500 by 5 Wall of Fame at P.D. Brown Me­mo­rial Li­brary in Wal­dorf. The pro­gram pro­motes early lit­er­acy in preschool aged chil­dren.

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