Johnson County Library celebrating 10 years of early literacy programming

Storytime at Antioch Library is part of the Johnson County Library’s 6 by 6 early literacy program.

Johnson County Library is celebrating the 10th anniversary of its early literacy program this month with a series of programs and activities geared toward toddler learning.

The program, “6 by 6, Ready to Read,” refers to six pre-reading skills the library system encourages for children from birth to age 6.

“We have had the program going robustly for 10 years now; it’s a milestone for us,” said Bradley Debrick, early literacy coordinating librarian for the Johnson County Library. “We need to celebrate that we had that many impacts over the course of 10 years’ time. The kids who first came to storytime when we started are now in fourth grade. And just thinking about those kids and how the library has affected their lives over 10 years.”

Debrick noted that the library system has undergone many significant changes over the past decade, including the building of new library branches, but storytime and early literacy programming “is still a cornerstone of what we do.”

The six pre-reading skills in the program are:

  • Have fun with books
  • Notice print all around you
  • Talk, talk, talk
  • Look for letters everywhere
  • Tell stories about everything
  • Take time to rhyme

Library staff noted that early literacy “lays the groundwork for a child’s successful future, with links to a number of outcomes including economic success, health and lower risk.”

“We want families to enjoy the library,” Debrick said. “Kids who associate reading with pleasure will naturally want to become readers. The library helps kids get ready to read, and library staff are able to engage children while demonstrating for caregivers the simple ways to help develop a child’s pre-reading skills.”

Johnson County Library provides about 1,500 in-library and outreach storytimes for about 40,000 children and caregivers each year. Debrick said they expect those numbers to grow because of additional programming when Johnson County Library added the Monticello branch in Shawnee last year. Plus, Johnson County Library expanded its Lenexa operations when the City Center Library came online earlier this year.

In total, Johnson County Library is offering 58 weekly storytimes this fall, Debrick added.

Other 6 by 6 programs include activity spaces for small children, childcare outreach services and parent engagement with Growing Futures Early Education Center in Overland Park, to name a few. Debrick himself conducts early literacy workshops for childcare providers.

As Johnson County Library reflects on the impact of the past decade’s worth of early literacy programming on the community, Debrick considers new opportunities for the library system over the next 10 years and beyond.

“The climate right now for early childhood overall in the state of Kansas, and sort of nationally, there’s a big push to fund it better and make sure that quality early childhood programs and services are available in all communities,” Debrick said. “I think that there’s been a recent trend of realizing how important those first years are, and I’m really pleased that the library is continuing to commit time, resources, staff and energy to providing services for those kids.

“For kids who are not in a preschool, for homeschool families, this is their school, so we want to have services and activities and programs available to support their early learning before they start on their formal education. Or, if they choose to homeschool, we want to make sure that we have a foundation to help them as they continue on.”

The 10th anniversary date is Sept. 15, so all events are centered around the program’s birthday. Festivities start with a birthday celebration Sept. 16 at the Oak Park branch library. Johnson County Library will also do social media challenges every day for six days (find the hashtag #6by6), each day exercising one of the 6 by 6 pre-reading skills.