STAR Fest 2022 Showcases the Importance of Early Literacy With, and Without, Books

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STAR Fest 2022 Showcases the Importance of Early Literacy With, and Without, Books

"We are part of the Library family. We go to Rosedale. We go to the seventh street location and I follow you guys on Instagram. We saw that the fest was happening, and we wanted to come for some of the performances and the bubbles. Our son loves bubbles and loves books."

Keisha Walcott and her family attended this year's STAR Fest. Her son is enrolled in the STAR Books from Birth program. Her daughter just enrolled recently.

What parents and caregivers like Walcott show their children about numbers, letters, shapes and colors before they start school creates a solid foundation for a lifelong love of reading and learning. Through the Sing, Talk and Read (STAR) initiative, the DC Public Library encourages adults to take an active role in their children's early learning from birth. To show how that role can involve books and play, the Library recently hosted STAR Fest 2022 at the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library.

To show how to reading can be fun, the STAR Fest 2022 featured music by Latin-Grammy Award-winning group 123 Andrés and Move with Mr. Prather's Mr. Prather; Author talks and book signings by author-illustrator duo Anna Kang and Christopher Weyant and 123 Andrés; family story times and free book giveaways; and lots of bubbles.

In addition to seeing performances, attendees connected with community and government partners around literacy. Representatives from
Strong Start, DC Public Schools's Ready for Pre-K! Initiative and DC Childcare Connections gave information about early care, educational and financial resources available to District residents. In addition, there were petting zoos, free arts and crafts and sightings of Spider-man, Batman and Disney characters.

"I'm a huge fan of giving back to the community and being able to enrich lives in any way possible," said airbrush artist David Foreman. "Since the big thing is making learning fun instead of making it a chore, getting everybody together and doing events like this is really significant."

Early Learning Fun Backed by Research 

Singing, talking, and reading with children from birth prepares them to learn to read when they start school and creates a solid foundation for a lifelong love of learning. Through STAR, the Library shows caregivers how they can use everyday interactions to take an active role in their children's early learning:

  • Singing helps children hear, learn and remember new words.
  • Talking with children helps them learn more words, understand how a word is used and gives context to what they will read later in school.
  • Reading with children helps them understand reading as a fun activity. 
  • Writing with children helps them understand that printed letters stand for printed words
  • Playing with children using books makes reading fun.

"There are so many different thoughts and theories on what it takes for a child to learn how to read, and there are so many gadgets out there," says Tora Burns, Reading Programs Coordinator at the DC Public Library. "The STAR framework is an easy way for parents to educate their children. We all know nursery rhymes. We know singing or repetition is good for children who are trying to learn a language. It's the natural things that we as people do that's important for children."

STAR is backed by a growing understanding of the human brain. Research shows that parents/caregivers engaging with a baby through conversations, gestures, and positive interactions helps a baby's brain develop. For example, 86 percent to 98 percent of the words used by a child by age three come from their parents and caregivers.

"I always tell parents you are your child's first teacher," said Burns. "Everything that they need they already possess. And if there are things that they may not understand, the Library is here to help."

Combining Literacy Information with Access to Books

As part of the STAR Fest, Library staff were on site to help families enroll in the STAR Books from Birth Program. This program mails all enrolled children in D.C. a free book each month from birth until they turn five. The initiative helps parents make reading a daily habit by combining information about STAR behaviors with increased access to books.

Currently, 33,553 of the 45,040 children in the District under age five are enrolled in Books From Birth. Since the program's launch in 2016, 31,958 children have graduated from the program since 2016. The books are provided by Imagination Library, a nonprofit child literacy program started by country singer Dolly Parton. The District is Imagination Library's largest affiliate program. The books are age-appropriate and are selected to reflect a diversity of people and cultures and promote self-esteem and a love of reading.

For Keisha Walcott's family, the books are a huge hit. "We love reading all the time. Every time we receive a new book in the mail, it's just like, Oh we got a new book, let's read the book. So it's a great joy to get something every month."

To learn more about the Library's STAR initiative click here