Katy Nesbitt
The La Grande Observer

ENTERPRISE — The Wallowa County Library was recognized at a public reception April 25 after earning an Outstanding Project Award from the state library.

Wallowa County was one of four libraries to receive the award for its participation in the grant-funded Ready to Read program, also known as the library’s Training Wheels program, that provides early literacy outreach.

County Librarian Susan Polumsky said the library loans books to child care facilities and gives away about 2,000 books each year.

“We go to city libraries, day cares and other organizations to promote literacy and kindergarten readiness,” Polumsky said.

She said the library has given out more than 28,000 books since 2003.

To help encourage reading and science skills, literacy packets are available to parents and are distributed by Building Healthy Families during family visits, through the Women and Infant Children program, at the Community Connection food bank and to children involved in circuit court proceedings.

“We send out 8,000 ready to learn packets each year with hands-on activities,” Polumsky said.

Newborn baby book bags are handed out at the hospital that include two books and information on childhood development and early literacy.

“We show parents how to read to children (with a) dialogic approach, to stop and engage the child and ask, ‘What’s going on in the picture?’ or ‘What’s going to happen next?’” Polumsky said.

She said there are simple play activities parents can do to encourage early literacy and kindergarten readiness.

“We like to encourage people to start reading to their children from birth,” she said.

Early brain development is crucial, Polumsky said, and reading with babies and small children is part of that process.

“Words and rhymes and songs are those things that build early literacy when you start the process early,” Polumsky said. “Repetition builds those important brain connections and physical connections."

See complete story in Monday's Observer