When I first moved to Streator, I had a handful of chores at the DMV, post office, and with my bill companies to make myself an “official” resident.
As far as the state government and the United States Postal Service were concerned, I became an official resident several weeks before I considered myself to be one.
After all, it wasn’t the shiny new driver’s license that made me feel at home.
That honor belonged to my shiny new Streator Public Library card.
There’s something special about the library experience that borders on sacred.
Perhaps it is the hush inside the building. Perhaps it is the idea that writers who are centuries old and in their graves can tell their stories. Perhaps it’s just an appreciation of the towers of knowledge stacked on the shelves and the idea it is there for the taking.
Whatever the reason, if reading were a religion, the library would be my temple.
That is why getting the Streator Public Library card was such a joy.
Incidentally (but not coincidentally — I mention this quite intentionally), September is Library Card Signup Month.
The American Library Association website offers this explanation about the month’s designation:
The observance was launched in 1987 to meet the challenge of then Secretary of Education William J. Bennett who said: “Let’s have a national campaign…every child should obtain a library card – and use it.” Since then, thousands of public and school libraries join each fall in a national effort to ensure every child does just that.
The website goes on to explain:
“Libraries play an important role in the education and development of children. Studies show that children who are read to in the home and who use the library perform better in school and are more likely to continue to use the library as a source of lifetime learning.
“Librarians are literacy experts. Libraries offer a variety of programs to stimulate an interest in reading and learning. Preschool story hours expose young children to the joy of reading, while homework centers provide computers and assistance to older children after school. Summer reading clubs keep children reading during school vacation and have been shown to be the most important factor in avoiding the decrease in reading skills that educators refer to as ‘summer learning loss.'”
So what are you waiting for? If you don’t have a library card already and your town has a library, go make yourself an official resident of your library district!
Family Literacy Week
September gives us another bookish observance to celebrate.
Adult Education and Family Literacy Week is Sept. 22-26. (International Literacy Day also is on Sept. 8, but that has passed already for this year.)
The U.S. Department of Education and the National Institute of Literacy report 32 million adults in the United States (14 percent of the population) cannot read. An additional 21 percent cannot read beyond a fifth-grade level. Moreover, there are high school students who graduate without reading competence.
That’s why Adult Education and Family Literacy Week is important. Once people are aware of the problem, it can be mended.
There are two steps to fixing illiteracy. The first is reparation: to educate those who can’t read through adult literacy programs.
The second is prevention: teaching children to read at a young age. The best way to do this is to start fostering their love of words early.
My brother-in-law and his wife spend a lot of time reading to their daughters. The last time I was at their house, my 2-year-old niece Makenna was content to pull every book out of her book box, one by one, and hand them to me to read to her. Even though her vocabulary is limited and still developing, she already loves books because she knows they mean family togetherness.
Associating books with rewarding experiences (such as couch cuddles with Mom and Dad) at a young age makes reading exciting even before the stories have meaning. As vocabularies improve and stories start to make sense, reading is even more exciting!
Wouldn’t it be great to celebrate Family Literacy Week by designating family reading time this year?
Harper Collins Children’s Books released an infographic that reports daily reading to children puts them almost one year ahead of children who are not being read to; children who read 3,000 words per day will be in the top 2 percent of standardized tests; and children who read only 20 words per day will be in the bottom 2 percent of standardized tests.
(If the PDF opens as a blank page, please wait a moment for it to load.)
With Library Card Signup Month and Family Literacy Week, it sounds like September is the perfect time to get to the library, sign up your child for that library card, and start reading together as a family.