Nearly 60% of Ohio kindergartners start the school year without the necessary skills to read. The Sisters of Charity Foundation of Canton has worked for years to help improve school readiness and educational opportunities, investing $26 million over the last 25 years. Most recently, the foundation provided a grant to the Stark Library to expand its programs geared toward helping kids read at an early age.
By Bob Jones
News 5 Cleveland
Good early habits lead to a lifetime of success. That philosophy is at the core of Stark Library, which offers several programs geared towards getting kids to read at an early age.
Many librarians believe childhood literacy is crucial because about 60% of Ohio kindergartners start the school year without the necessary skills to read.
Ashley Lashway and her 4-year-old son, Silas, have been involved in library programs for a little more than a year, including story-time events and (reading) 1,000 Books Before Kindergarten.
"We've always heard how important early literacy is. It's the basis for all learning. It's been great from him socially as well as for me," Lashway said.
Jen Picciano and her two boys are also frequent visitors. The mom said all of the reading is paying off and her older son is becoming more curious.
"I think reading is so very important. He's learned so much. He got very interested in bugs, so we ended up getting 25 books on bugs and now this boy can tell you pretty much everything you want to know about crickets," Picciano said.
Marianna DiGiacomo, the library's director of community services, said encouraging parents, grandparents and caregivers to read with children is just the beginning.
"Here at Stark Library, we want to make sure that parents and caregivers have the resources they need to ensure that when their child does start school, they're ready to learn," DiGiacomo said.
To back that up, the library used a grant from the Sisters of Charity Foundation to drive a bookmobile to inner-city Canton neighborhoods for the second straight summer. Books, activity kits and meals were provided to children over nine weeks.
"Students have been visiting us in their neighborhoods so they don't have to come to us. We bring the program to them," DiGiacomo said.
Julia Shaheen, the library's literacy manager, said some of the other programming focuses on letter sounds and comprehension which are key elements to early and future reading success.
"We do songs and stories and we keep them engaged and we share literacy tips and skills that families can do with their children at home," Shaheen said.
The library also partners with Dolly Parton's Imagination Library which delivers a book a month to children from birth to age 5. About 10,000 Stark County children receive the books, which equates to nearly 50% of eligible kids, Shaheen said.
"It's matches their age and they can read it and we've gotten so much great feedback from being a part of that program."
Lashway said her son just got his first library card and pointed out that his vocabulary is expanding, he's using his imagination more while also developing more empathy for characters— making it just the beginning of his great story.
"He loves reading and I'm so glad I get to share that with him."
The Sisters of Charity Foundation of Canton is a ministry of the Sisters of Charity Health System.
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