From the Harford County Public Library:
Opening the Gift, a Harford County Public Library outreach reading program, is celebrating 35 years of providing free monthly story time experiences to children in licensed home daycares. A special celebration will take place at the Bel Air Library on Saturday, April 5 from 1:00-4:00 pm. Daycare providers, children and their families who have enjoyed visits from the Library through the years are encouraged to drop by and share their memories.
“Opening the Gift has been a great learning partnership for both my daycare and the families,” said daycare provider and longtime Opening the Gift participant Kathy Crisco. “It has introduced my daycare families to the abundance of activities, classes and technology that the Library has available for all ages to enjoy and use as resources. Where I really see the influence is when the children want to read themselves, not just be read to. They now think books and librarians are helpful, awesome and cool!”
The Sharing the Gift program which provides similar story time visits to daycare centers started in 1975. Following the success of that program, Opening the Gift was created in the summer of 1979 to include in-home daycares. Frances Sedney, the Library’s Children’s Services Coordinator at the time, secured the original federal grants to launch the programs with materials and staffing. Sedney initially sought the grants after realizing that more women working outside of the house meant that many children weren’t exposed to reading at a young age. Since the limited time period covered by the grants, the Library has continued both programs in response to their success and a strong commitment to early literacy. In 1979, the Sharing the Gift and Opening the Gift programs combined reached a total of approximately 12,000 children. Today, the two programs reach 25,000 children each year.
Each interactive Opening the Gift visit includes stories, puppets, songs and finger plays. As children enjoy the fun of stories and puppet friends, the visits provide essential early literacy skills. Opening the Gift allows daycare providers and parents to learn techniques used to enhance each child’s early literacy skills through the awareness of sounds, rhymes, words and tactile activities both during and in between visits. A monthly newsletter provides book suggestions, rhymes, songs and activity ideas to extend story time themes and can also be used as a mini thematic lesson plan.
To participate, daycare providers must be licensed, able to set aside 45 minutes each month from September through May for the visit, and have at least four preschool age children in attendance. Home daycares with less than four children in attendance may combine with another home daycare. Harford County Public Library provides this service to licensed daycare providers county-wide.
Spaces are limited and interested daycare providers should call the Bel Air branch at (410) 638-3151 and ask for the Children’s Information Desk to reserve a space for the upcoming program year. Past participants must re-apply each year to be considered for inclusion in the program and priority consideration is given to applications received by June 15.
Harford County Public Library operates eleven branches located throughout Harford County, Maryland. The library serves 182,000 registered borrowers of all ages and has an annual circulation of over 4.1 million. Harford County Public Library is committed to connecting people with information and promoting the love of reading within the community.