- May 20, 2020
An item in the work session of the County Commissioners Meeting on Tuesday, April 2nd was for approval of a grant of $1,256,912 for the Lycoming County Library System. This is a lot of money, to be sure. When discussions of money for much, much less sums sometimes get quite contentious among the Commissioners Board,
An item in the work session of the County Commissioners Meeting on Tuesday, April 2nd was for approval of a grant of $1,256,912 for the Lycoming County Library System. This is a lot of money, to be sure. When discussions of money for much, much less sums sometimes get quite contentious among the Commissioners Board, this item only received praise.
There is an excellent reason why. That sum of money supports not only the James V. Brown Library in Williamsport, but also five other libraries, four link libraries, and two mobile libraries in Lycoming County. From those institutions were 365,000 visits from county residents in 2018. Averaged out to the entire population of the county, it figures out to be three visits each for every man, woman, and child.
These local libraries support a vast array of programs beyond just lending out books, magazines, and DVDs. Jersey Shore Public Library hosts a PSU Career Pathways program that holds classes for GED/HiSet training and testing. The Hughesville Public Library offers art and music programs for little children. Muncy Public Library has a Full Circle Future Harvest group that promotes the importance of having healthy soil and growing non-genetically modified seeds to produce nutritious fruits and vegetables, as well as explores the use of functional medicine. The Dr. W. B. Konkle Memorial Library in Montoursville is celebrating its 75th anniversary this year and is hosting a variety of events to commemorate, such as the recent local authors’ book signing and book sale.
But perhaps the biggest benefit of our local library network is the support it gives to families to encourage early reading. Commissioner Rick Mirabito noted this during the work session meeting. It is not an exaggeration that as much as any activity a parent can do with their young child, reading is perhaps the most beneficial. By age three, roughly 85% of the brain’s core structure is formed. In these first three years, infants and toddlers begin acquiring the first of thousands of words they will use throughout their lives. Studies have shown that children’s academic successes at ages nine and ten can be attributed to the amount of talk they hear from birth through age three. Parents think that reading to small children is futile because of their limited attention span, but the opposite is true. It is what causes that attention span to grow. Reading aloud to young children is not only one of the best activities to stimulate language and cognitive skills; it also builds motivation, curiosity, and memory.
In business, the value of an operation is called its ROI — Return on Investment. For those who balk at public money supporting libraries, consider that 61% of low-income families have no books at all in their homes for their children, and 80% of preschool and after-school programs serving low-income populations have no age-appropriate books for their children. Given this, it is no surprise that half of the children from low-income communities start first grade up to two years behind their peers. The sad truth is that the vast majority of children who start behind, stay behind, leading to an increase in our nation’s dropouts rate among low-income and minority students. Surveys of adolescents and young adults with criminal records show that about half have reading difficulties. Similarly, about half of youths with a history of substance abuse have reading problems.
Quite simply, encouraging parents to read to their young children has an ROI in the stratosphere. The local library system, the link libraries, and the bookmobiles provide access to books for small children throughout the county. Parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, caregivers in any way should read, read, and read some more to the little ones. Reading is an equal opportunity benefit and blessing.