Each half-hour session starts and ends not with books, but songs. There’s also movement and interaction, too, because the effort to get children ready to learn how to read — which takes place at various times and days at libraries across Prince George’s County — means a lot more than just books.
“They are responding to prompts, they’re singing something which helps them retain it better,” said Heather Jackson, the west area director of the Prince George’s County Memorial Library System.
“It’s really important, especially with vocabulary learning, we know that music helps you retain things better,” Jackson said. “You also get away with a lot more repetition in a song than you do if you’re just saying something over and over. Kids really pick up a lot from music that might not be as translatable for them if we were just doing text or just doing speech with them.”
The hope is parents will also catch on, and take those experiences and lessons back home. And along the way, pick up some books to read at home too.
“The research on outcomes is really, really clear,” said Jackson. She cited a study showing that when a child has even just 38 books in the home, “the outcomes for that child into adulthood were so much better. You saw way better school outcomes. You saw far less incarceration rates for the kids who had that number of books in the home.”
By the time a child has gone through a program like the “Story Time” one in Prince George’s County, even if the kid isn’t going to school knowing how to read, “they’re very much ready and primed to learn how to read,” Jackson said.
She pointed to the number of school serving large numbers of children from low-income families as well as schools with lower testing rates in the Hyattsville area.
“It’s really important to get these kids prepared so that once they hit school they are successful,” she added.