EngageJax is really an opportunity for you to learn what those changes are and how they come about, engage with who is working to make those changes, and most importantly, how you can act to make an even greater impact.
We share posts on a variety of topics, including leadership development, community vision, and opportunities to engage in the community. You’ll also get in-depth, fact-based views of important Jacksonville issues, overviews of JCCI programs, projects, and events, and details about what we’re reading and why. We'll also have an opportunity to ask some of our friends six questions - and share their answers.
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My baby is a genius. Don't roll your eyes at me. You think I'm bragging, and OK, I am, but he is. He was reading at age two: no lie, he spelled "hat" with bathtub letters and said, "Hat." Now he's five and reading Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. Is he blessed with genius genes? Of course! But more to the point, those genes got turned on because he was very fortunate. In his first three years of life, my job's flexibility allowed us to spend a great many of our days visiting the public library. We attended children's programs that featured stories and songs, and we checked out the treasures and read many, many books every day.
I have a psychology degree, so I had a basic understanding of my infant's developmental needs, and I am a talker, so it was easy to expose him to many words every day. I also knew reading to him and sitting on the floor with him during story time was important, but until our Children 1-2-3 Inquiry, I did not give much thought to how our interactions with our children shape their actual gene expression. Because I happen to love stories and am forever a literature major, I kept mild postpartum depression and other impacts of standard new mommy isolation in check by reading hundreds of new books and revisiting cherished ones. I mostly read for my own pleasure! It turns out this is one of those parenting moments I can feel good about. Returning to the titles that got the most babbles and attempts to chew the pages was good for both of us!
As my genius baby grew, he suggested we hit the library when I asked him what we should do with our day. When my boy was old enough for preschool at the library, we both came to adore Ms. Elaine at the Mandarin branch. She engaged him, and he literally thought "outside the outline", smearing his shaving cream well past the circles because, he said, his snowman was "taking a bath."
I grew a book worm, but more importantly, and quite simply, the library gave us the means to lay a solid foundation for literacy. When my son went through his "I'm going to be a doctor" phase and asked about the bones in the human body, we found a book at the library and learned "clavical" and "scapula" and such together. When he wanted to know more about snakes, we went to the library to find out that a rattlesnake's rattle is made of the same thing your fingernails are: keratin. My kid's favorite book for a time was a 3-D layered alligator book with guts and and a skeleton, a pricey resource I wouldn't have been able to splurge on for our home library.
Now my child is selective about which books we read and whether we will take turns being the reader by the page or by the book, directing me to make the villain voices creepier, the silly characters more exuberant, and the onomatopoeia more pronounced. If you read with this child, you'll see that literacy has promoted creativity and inspired curiosity. He's quite the director, because, I'm convinced, books offer entire worlds for him, and he likes to experience them in full. I believe he will do this with many more experiences in his life.
Besides being a proud mama, I'm saying all this to emphasize that literacy comes naturally when we reinforce the neural pathways that support it, and libraries are essential for building literacy in our community. When we were middle class, we bought books, too, but the library was still essential. When our income dropped dramatically, we leaned on the library more heavily when we needed to mix up our selections. If we had been living below the poverty line, we might have relied solely on the library for any exposure to children's books and programs. Even for the wealthy, though, there is no denying that literacy is easier to facilitate when kids are immersed in book-related activities and associate them with good feelings, like social inclusion when singing familiar songs with familiar library buddies and the joy of making a groundhog--who emerges from the ground to study its shadow--out of a cup and craft stick.
The results of JCCI's two recent inquiries, Check It Out: Independent Library Funding and Children 1-2-3 have seemingly converged as the Jacksonville Public Library promotes its Link Up To Literacy, a site that reflects an awareness of the importance of early interactions and includes a list of milestones and tools for reaching them! Through the library's on-line links, you can learn how to give your child--or the children in your care--the best opportunities for strong foundations for literacy. Who knows? With your efforts, maybe your baby will be the one to spell and define "onomatopoeia" at the preschool graduation ceremony (I'm not kidding!) or ask you to do science experiments with him because he is hungry to learn more about the world.
Or maybe you will join this community's advocacy efforts for early learning and the library's stable funding, both born from our recent inquiries. Either way, I hope you will read for twenty minutes a day to the nearest kiddo. It opens up worlds, teaches vocabulary, and helps brains learn how to learn for better problem solving, social skills, and every other kind of future success. And there's the bonus geektastic parental pride!