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Parents encouraged to read to children by state's libraries

March 25, 2001

Parents encouraged to read to children by state's libraries

By KIMBERLY YAKOWSKI

kimy@herald-mail.com

Libraries throughout Maryland will be encouraging parents to read to their children with the kick-off of the "It's never too early," campaign today.

The state-wide campaign sponsored by the Maryland State Department of Education, Division of Library Development and Services, focuses on highlighting the public libraries' programs, as well as the importance of reading to children from birth to 5 years old.

"There is a positive link between exposing a child to books and a child's vocabulary. When you read to infants, toddlers and pre-schoolers, you contribute to their language development," said Nancy S. Grasmick, superintendent of schools with the state Department of Education.

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When babies are read to, "they begin to imitate sounds and words, will learn to listen and will grow up ready to read. That's why it's never too late to read to your child," she said in a press release.

The Washington County Free Library in Hagerstown offers a story hour for children on Thursdays and Fridays, said Kathleen O'Connell, the library's assistant director.

O'Connell said the library, Washington County Hospital and Washington County Reading Council recently teamed up for a new program, "Books for Babies."

Each new mother who gives birth at Washington County Hospital will be given a book to read to her child and a coupon to get another from the library, she said.

"We need to get parents to realize they need to read and talk to their kids," said O'Connell.

Mothers are given "board books" which have pictures but no words, she said.

"It's aimed at people who are not good readers - to let them know they don't have to be intimidated by books," said O'Connell.

Parents can take the books and make up stories about the pictures, she said. It's also effective to sing or recite poems to children, she said.

"It's a way you and your child can interact verbally," she said.

Seminars will be held at the library in April in which parents learn "the importance of reading and how to share a book with their child," said O'Connell.

According to the State Department of Education, there are about 350,000 children in the state from birth to 5 years old. Less than one-third of those children are taken to a public library to participate in story hours and other activities.

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