Medina County is lagging behind the nation in parents reading daily to their young children. And that could cause a literacy problem down the road as today’s toddlers enter grade school.
In a survey commissioned by Living Well Medina County, only 35 percent of Medina County parents reported reading to their children under 5 years old. That statistic falls far behind the national average of 48 percent and the Ohio average of 50 percent.
Medina County District Library has taken steps to improve early reading readiness by hiring Dawn Roginski, an early childhood outreach librarian. Roginski is based at the Buckeye County Library on Wolff Road.
An advocate for early childhood literacy, Roginski visits 29 Medina County preschool and day care facilities each month, teaching a program that includes stories, interactive boards, music and movement.
She is assisted by Jimbo, a friendly puppet who helps teach the program.
“The children love Jimbo. He plays a special role in the program. He challenges and motivates the kids and they learn to identify reading as a fun activity,” Roginski said.
Youngsters in Roginski’s program go home with a newsletter updating their parents on what they learned that day.
“The newsletter gives parents ideas and tips. It also includes the rhymes we learned and the books we read,” she said.
Roginski’s passion for childhood literacy eventually led to her writing a reference book for teachers and librarians. “A Year in the Story Room: Ready-to-use Programs for Children” (American Library Association) was released this month and is available at amazon.com.
“We need to bring the focus back to early literacy and kindergarten-readiness,” Roginski aid, “Children are not going to learn to read in first or second grade. They must know how to read before they leave kindergarten.”
According to Roginski, reading aloud is one of the most important things a parent can do to help a child prepare for reading.
“Too many parents turn to their iPad or computer to teach their children. But parents should be actively involved in helping their children to read. For instance, rhyming is important. Many of today’s parents didn’t grow up on Mother Goose and are not passing along those rhymes to their children.”
Research has shown that children who can remember and recite eight nursery rhymes by age 4 will become the best readers by age 8.
Roginski teaches nursery rhymes and encourages children to engage in spontaneous rhyming. “We use phrases like ‘Stay Strong, King Kong’ or ‘Be sweet, parakeet.’ ”
She encourages parents to find creative ways to help their children read.
“Use grocery store fliers — let your little ones pretend to make out a shopping list. It might just be squiggles at first, but they are learning. Make it fun. Read what your children choose to read and relate the story to their day. Tell a story without a book so children have to use their imagination.”
Word recognition is an important indicator of a child’s readiness to read.
“If children don’t hear certain words, they can’t decode them,” Roginski said, “There are rare words that don’t come up in everyday conversation. Picture books include 31 rare words per thousand. Adult conversation provides only nine rare words per thousand.”
Roginski recently read a book to preschoolers about a garbage truck called “I Stink” by Jim McMullen (Joanna Cotler Books).
“The book has so many rare words — throttle, rev, compacted, hopper, barge, eject, separate, sanitation. We discussed the meaning of ‘compacted’ and ‘sanitation.’ We worked on the letter ‘S’ and the children were able to identify the letter in ‘sanitation.’ We also used stop and go traffic signs and the children pretended to be trucks.”
Roginski encourages parents not only to read daily to their children but to take their children to the library.
“I’ve had kids tell me they’ve never been to the library,” she said. “I encourage parents to visit the library with their children and reconnect to books.
“Nothing compares to holding your child on your lap and reading aloud from a book. It creates a positive association and a love for reading.”
For more information about the Medina County Library and its programs, visit www.mcdl.info.
Living Well Medina County is a collaborative effort of healthcare, government, education, business, nonprofit organizations and faith groups. Results of their survey are detailed in the “Community Health Improvement Plan (CHIP) January 2013” which can be found at medinahealth.org.
Contact reporter Nancy Johnson at (330) 721-4065 or firstname.lastname@example.org.