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United Way-Funded Program Promotes Literacy Among Arlington Youth

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(credit: KTVT/KTXA) Joel Thomas
Joel is an Emmy Award winning journalist with more than 15 year...
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ARLINGTON (CBSDFW.COM) – About two dozen wide-eyed four and five year olds filed off of a school bus Thursday on an important field trip.

“This is the big library!” a smiling librarian waiting to greet the children said.

The kids gazed at the Arlington Central Library as they formed a single-file line.

“It looks like a building,” one boy said.

“It IS a building!” the librarian replied.

They’re Pre-K students. And this was their first real introduction to a library.

They were led into the children’s section of the library and sat in a semi-circled recess that served as a small theatre. One of the librarians began telling stories using puppets, drawings and – of course – books.

“Run! Run as fast as you can!” the children chanted in unison while the storyteller used a paper ginger man to tell the classic children’s story. “You can’t catch me! I’m the gingerbread man!”

“A lot of the pre-k’s don’t even go to the libraries in the schools because of overcrowding or whatever,” said Laureen Jacobs of the Arlington Library. “This is a pre-literacy exercise for them. They get the stories. They get the rhythm. I do a lot of singing so the words are broken up into syllables when we sing.”

And the students were told the stories they heard are also stories they could read.

“You can put ‘em in the backpack and take them home,” Jacobs told the students.

The United Way pays for the program. And teachers say it’s the first big step that turns children into readers.

“And then when we show the children what’s available to them, that they can get books and movies and cd’s, then they’re very excited to tell their parents and then they can encourage their parents to have them come,” said Cherry Hardin, a teacher at Rankin Elementary, one of the school participating in the program. “So that builds literacy.”

The students were handed their first library card, a book bag and a complimentary book from the library as they left.

It’s only the second year of the program in Arlington. But teachers and librarians have been so pleased with the results they’re hoping to extend the program in future years.

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