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Library system promoting early literacy in toddlers

A mother and her children participated in a “Baby Talk” class at the Headquarters Library in Jonesboro. The library is offering classes for babies, toddlers and preschoolers, which will help their reading skills later on in life.

A mother and her children participated in a “Baby Talk” class at the Headquarters Library in Jonesboro. The library is offering classes for babies, toddlers and preschoolers, which will help their reading skills later on in life.

The Clayton County Library System is providing free classes for parents who want to giving their toddlers a head start on pre-school and grade school.

Exposing them to words, sounds and illustrations helps toddlers develop necessary skills, and the library system wants to play a part in their early literacy, said Bea Mengel, youth services librarian at the Headquarters Branch in Jonesboro.

“Basically, the whole idea is early language immersion, which expands their vocabulary,” she said.

Mengel said she teaches “Baby Talk,” a class geared for newborns to 20-month-old infants. The class will occur every Thursday of the month, from March 8 to April 26, from 10 to 11 a.m. at the Headquarters Branch, 865 Battle Creek Road. The nearest cross street is King Road. Parents must register their baby in advance, she said.

She said babies’ little brains get exposed to sounds, color and shapes, which help them get accustomed to their association with things early in life.

The class is divided into four components: play with a purpose, “Souns,” circle time and book-sharing time.

During the play with a purpose component, parents use age-appropriate toys to play with their infant, she explained. The parent uses this one-on-one time with the child to describe the toy, such as its color or the sound it would make, she said.

The “Souns” component, said Mengel, focuses on the sound a letter would make. If the letter “M” is showcased to the group, teacher and parents would make an “mmm” sound for the child, she explained.

Parents can learn more about the Souns early literacy program by visiting www.souns.org.

Circle time allows the babies to learn more sounds through nursery rhymes, puppets and music CDs, she said. Parents also read to their children during book-sharing time, which also exposes them to new vocabulary.

“There have been studies done where children exposed to thousands of words in the vocabulary do better in school,” said Mengel.

Diane Flores, youth services assistant at the Headquarters Branch, said toddlers and preschoolers can take advantage of the free “Family Storytime” at the library.

She said she will teach the class which is available every Tuesday, from March 8 to May 8 at the Headquarters Branch. Toddlers ages 21 months to 36 months meet at 10 a.m., while preschoolers, 3 to 6 years old, meet at 11 a.m., she added.

“They are divided so we can pick appropriate books for the ages of the children,” said Flores.

She said parents must register their child once, which will allow them to participate in the classes until May 8. If a child participates at least six times, they will receive a certificate of completion. “It’s like a reward to them,” she said.

This class also involves parent interaction, she said. Children learn words and sounds through things such as songs and finger plays, she explained.

She said the earlier a child becomes aware of words and sounds, “the more they will pick up and read sooner.”

Part of the lesson requires children to listen to a story and discuss the illustration that is shown, said Flores. They identify something, such as a dog, and demonstrate the sound it would make. “They’re learning to get those phonetic sounds,” she said.

For more information visit the Clayton County Library System’s web site, www.claytonpl.org.