Literacy rates are falling in Louisiana’s children. For National Library Week from April 4-10, the Ouachita Parish Public Library is combatting this decline by sharing tips for caretakers involved in children’s lives.
According to a recent Louisiana Department of Education report, more than half of Louisiana children were below reading level in 2020. For kindergarteners, 59.6 percent of students were not reading on level.
“Our children are our future. This decline is alarming because we know that children who do not read well are less likely to graduate from high school on time. Thankfully, we have the tools to turn this trend around,” said Library Director Robin Toms.
Literacy sets students up for success not only in subjects like reading, but also in math and science. Students who struggle to read can also begin to struggle in other subjects, thanks to word problems on tests. Early intervention is important because children who do not read proficiently in the third grade are four times more likely to not graduate from high school on time, according to the Annie E. Casey Foundation.
“The number one thing a parent can do to improve their child’s literacy skills is to read aloud every day,” said Library Youth Services Coordinator LaKeisha Bosworth. “What happens at school is important, but research shows over and over again that parents need to take an active role in their child’s reading journey. It’s never too early or too late in life to read aloud to your child.”
Parents can begin with books at home or the Library, or during Downtown Story Time Stroll. Throughout the month of April, book pages from Bunny’s Book Club by Annie Silvestro and illustrated by Tatjana Mai-Wyss will hang from 26 store windows along Wood, Trenton and Cypress Streets in downtown West Monroe. Patrons can pick up maps from any Ouachita Parish Public Library branch or inside at any of the participating merchants. The Library is partnering with the Downtown West Monroe Revitalization Group to offer Downtown Story Time Stroll.
Additionally, the Ouachita Parish Public Library recommends these 10 tips for setting children up for reading success:
- Read aloud to your child for at least 15 minutes every day. This helps the child learn to bond with their parent, build new vocabulary and make connections between sounds and written words.
- Register your child for his or her very own Library card. With their own Library card, children can borrow books. Library cards show that reading is valuable and important to everyone.
- Model reading to your child by reading books for yourself and “get caught” reading. Try to read print books instead of e-books, since young children can’t yet differentiate screens for reading and screens for other purposes. If they see you reading, they will want to read themselves.
- When reading aloud, ask questions before turning the page. For example, ask questions like, “Where is the monkey?” or “What do you think this character will do next?” or “How would you feel if this happened to you?”
- Let your child pick out his or her own books. Even if you think the book looks boring, read the book aloud with your child. By reading books they find interesting, children build confidence in reading.
- Never use reading as punishment. Your child should associate reading with fun, not with discipline.
- Point out written words you see around you. Show your child the words on the cereal box, the billboard and on the drive-through menu.
- Build vocabulary by giving everything a name. For example, use names to describe the individual ingredients while cooking or use words to name flora and fauna you see at the park. “I am stirring corn kernels and black beans into the taco soup,” or “Look at the cardinal! See the red bird on the branch of the pine tree?”
- When reading aloud with your child, try using different voices for different characters. This will keep your child engaged and you will build sweet memories with your child.
- Ask family to consider giving books as presents for birthdays and major holidays. This will make it easier for you to grow an at-home library for your child. It is important for your child to use their Library card to borrow thousands of books, but having books of their own helps create confidence and a sense of achievement that can lead to improved reading skills.
About the Ouachita Parish Public Library
The mission of the Library is to advance literacy, inspire lifelong learning, and strengthen our community by serving everyone in Ouachita Parish. The Library serves a diverse community of approximately 160,000 people. The Library has 10 branches throughout the parish, plus a bookmobile, outreach services and e-services online at www.oplib.org.