Literacy program goes mobile

Library reaches out to parents in $2.2M reading program

The Toledo-Lucas County Public Library’s Ready to Read van features artwork from the book ‘Alphabet Under Construction.’
The Toledo-Lucas County Public Library’s Ready to Read van features artwork from the book ‘Alphabet Under Construction.’

What’s the best way to teach preschool children how to read? asks Nancy Eames, youth services coordinator for the Toledo-Lucas County Public Library.

The answer: Train parents to teach their children how to become better readers.

That’s the theory behind “Planting a Seed to Read,” an early-literacy program to be unveiled by the library and the Library Legacy Foundation during a news conference at 10:30 a.m. today at the YWCA Northwest Ohio, 1018 Jefferson Ave.

The $2.2 million program includes buying a 25-foot van that will take library staff to underserved communities where they can help parents develop skills to help make their children better readers, Ms. Eames said.

“We really believe that by changing the behavior of parents we can make a difference in the lives of children in the community,” she said. “Most people know that there are things kids need to know before they go to school, like their ABCs. What people don’t realize is they need to make sure that children understand sounds. You might recognize the letter ‘B’ but not realize the sound that it makes is ‘buh.’ We give parents the tools.”

The traveling librarians will schedule visits focusing on central-city neighborhoods, Ms. Eames said.

The van, which will operate like a small version of the more well-known library bookmobiles, will allow children to borrow books and be equipped with early-literacy kits designed for parents and child-care teachers. Parents will also be given free books and materials that can be used at home with their children.

The library will work closely with the Adelante Latino and Community Resource Center, Lucas County Help Me Grow, and Reach Out and Read of Northwest Ohio — agencies that already have established early-literacy programs.

Guisselle Mendoza, Adelante’s executive director, said the library should be credited for offering its program materials in Spanish.

“This is a very good example of investing in our community,” Ms. Mendoza said. “To be able to listen to a story in your own language is a beautiful thing.”

It’s also often the best way to learn, Ms. Mendoza and Ms. Eames said.

“Studies show that if someone is Spanish-speaking, it’s best to teach them in Spanish first,” Ms. Eames said. “Otherwise the children might not learn as many words. Children learn vocabulary by talking. You can’t learn words you’ve never seen or heard before.”

Although the Ready to Read van will focus on the central city, it will visit suburban communities such as Perrysburg, Maumee, and Sylvania, Ms. Eames said.

Literacy problems aren’t limited to people living in poverty, she said.

Two-thirds of Toledo-area children are not prepared to enter kindergarten ready to read and write, according to Ohio Department of Education statistics, Ms. Eames said.

The Library Legacy Foundation hopes to raise $2.2 million for the program so it can establish an endowment to sustain the literacy program for many years, said Rhonda Sewell, the library’s media-relations coordinator. The library foundation has raised about $1.9 million so far, officials said.

The new van’s artwork is based on the book Alphabet Under Construction, by award-winning local children’s author and illustrator Denise Fleming. The book is about a little mouse that builds each letter of the alphabet a different way.

Contact Federico Martinez at: or 419-724-6154.