Family Literacy and the Library: A Perfect Pair

Family Literacy and the Library: A Perfect Pair Banner Photo

Working as a librarian, I get the pleasure of meeting families of all ages and connecting them with books and resources that inspire literacy and family engagement.  The moment I match a reader to the right book, I feel a sense of joy like no other. When I hear quiet whispers of parents or grandparents reading aloud a picture book to their young child, I feel so lucky to be a witness to this opportunity for family bonding. While the books themselves are important, the bonds that we create through their pages are what will stand the test of time.

November is National Family Literacy month and it is the time to take a moment to celebrate and also highlight the benefits and joys of reading aloud together as a family.

Recently a new report, Public Libraries: A Vital Space for Family Engagement by the Harvard Family Research project and the Public Library Association highlights the importance of public libraries in families’ lives. Libraries are active learning spaces where families gather in the time spent outside of school and work to form lasting bonds sparked through the access to books and digital resources. The report lists the many ways libraries serve families with children of all ages:

Family engagement begins at birth and continues through young adulthood. It happens everywhere children learn—especially at the library. Each year, children spend about 1,000 of their 6,000 waking hours in school. That means most of family members’ engagement in children’s learning is happening during those other 5,000 hours. Whether during a conversation over dinner or while swinging on the playground, learning is more likely to happen within the context of supportive family relationships. Parents can also help influence what children want to learn and improve children’s reading comprehension by reading together, talking about school-related matters, and visiting the public library. When parents help children choose library books and navigate Internet-based learning resources, children spend more time reading and acquire more knowledge than those who are left to figure out library resources on their own.

School is no longer the only learning center; children can learn anywhere and it all begins long before they are ready to enter the classroom. When families gather at the library and more specifically, share in the adventure of reading aloud together, they are building a pathway to lifelong learning.  Again the report states:

Of all the ways in which families matter for children’s learning, perhaps most important is how they support children’s language, literacy, and reading abilities. Learning to read is a complex process that begins in the earliest years of a child’s life and involves the ability to weave together knowledge of sound systems, comprehension of words, and environmental print cues. Reading also involves the more advanced skills of using text to learn new ideas, integrate information, and form critical opinions. But children do not develop literacy skills on their own; they need support from and experiences with others—particularly the people in their families. Through reading at home, everyday conversations, telling stories, sharing books, singing, and playing, families help children’s language and literacy skills grow.

Reading aloud especially within the first five years is shown to have a positive impact on children’s lives and encourages them to become reading-ready.

What does this all tell us? Time spent together reading and talking together is time well spent!

You may wonder which books are the best for reading aloud, books that will spark the imagination and create lifelong readers. This can be a trial in and of itself with so many choices available on the shelf. How can we help here at Westwood library? We love to share our favorite books with you and help families navigate the shelves of books to find a story you can all link arms and jump into together.  No matter how young or old your child is, let the library continue to be a place for your family to share in quality time together.

If you’re looking for the opportunity to begin utilizing our collection and services, here is a wonderful program to consider. In celebration of family literacy and the nurturing impact of reading aloud during the first five years, Westwood library is hosting a workshop for parents, grandparents, early childhood professionals, and all caring adults who read aloud to children. Getting Ready to Read workshop teaches the importance of reading aloud and gives reading strategies to introduce early literacy concepts and skills to young children.

In this workshop, participants will learn:

•  Research on the importance of reading aloud to infants, toddlers, and preschoolers

•  Information about early literacy concepts and skills

•  Parenting strategies to use that foster children’s self-esteem

•  Reading strategies to use to introduce early literacy concepts and skills

•  Criteria for selecting good children’s picture books

•  Recommended books to read aloud to young children


Getting Ready to Read workshop is made possible by a grant given by the Foundation for Westwood Education and was developed and facilitated by Susan Marx, B.S.Ed, M.A.  and Barbara Kasok, B.S.Ed. Susan is a parent educator,  writer, editor of educational materials for students and teachers, and an elementary classroom teacher. She has led over 600 positive parenting workshops for parents and professionals. Barbara is a certified consulting teacher of reading in MA and has taught elementary school classrooms. She has also helped develop national reading programs and recommended appropriate reading materials for teachers of grades K-8. In collaboration they wrote the practical guidebook, Help Me get Ready to Read and now present this hands on workshop together. They have presented at libraries and preschools across Massachusetts.

To register for this workshop or for more information on this and other library programs call 781-320-1042, email, or visit

Come and join us for this interactive tutorial that illustrates the importance of early childhood literacy practices and the benefits bestowed on families as a whole. The library is not simply a quiet space with dusty old books; libraries are vibrant centers that help create a foundation for family literacy and positive life-long memories.


Lizzy McGovern

Head of Children’s Services

Westwood Public Library



Caspe, Margaret,  Lopez, M. Elena, and Lorette McWilliams. 2016. PUBLIC LIBRARIES: A Vital Space for Family Engagement.

Kasok, Barbara. And Susan Marx. Help me get ready to read: The Practical Guide For Reading Aloud To Children During Their First Five Years. 2016