By DEB SULLIVAN
On the Shelves
Learning how to read “is all about beginning and beginning well,” said children’s author and illustrator Will Hillenbrand.
This is his second year as the featured author for York County Libraries’ and PeoplesBank’s “Grade One At the Library” (GOAL) program.
Now in its fifth year, the annual initiative aims to get a library card in the hands of every York County first-grade student, right when they are just beginning to learn how to read. They are excited about acquiring this new skill, and the timing is perfect to introduce them to the free materials and many ways the library can help them build upon what they are learning at school.
“GOAL is a great opportunity for young people in York to begin well,” Hillenbrand said. “It is why I am enthusiastic about what happens. I think it is terrific, and I think the name is terrific. We just went through the Olympics where every athlete had a goal. A marathon starts with a step; achieving the goal is months and years ahead.”
Hillenbrand explained that when kids initially begin to read, the words look like squiggles on a page. We introduce language and context through literary works for young children to master our language.
Ultimately, it gives shape and direction to their lives. They start to see things in new ways and gain understanding. After all, “they will never write a word they have never encountered,” Hillenbrand said. Literature introduces those words.
“The goal is to be opening up to a bigger world,” Hillenbrand said. “For example, Harry Potter is a fictional character, but don’t tell that to his readers.”
Charlotte’s Web started as an idea about a spider and a pig. And how else do you get to the Hundred Acres Woods or Neverland other than through a book?
GOAL officially kicks off this week with youth services librarians visiting area elementary schools to get kids and teachers excited about the program. Library card applications will be sent home to parents through the schools, and free library cards will be distributed to participating children. The kids are encouraged to go to their local libraries to try out their new library cards, perhaps borrowing beginning reader books.
“The library is the No. 1 best source for parents,” Hillenbrand said. “It’s a brilliant thing because it is not a purchasing decision. We can’t predict what will be our child’s favorite book. The beauty of the library is that you can pretty much borrow them all.”
During their first three library visits, GOAL participants can receive prizes, including the book “Down by the Station” by Hillenbrand.
The grand finale of the program is the GOAL Celebration in November, where the kids can personally meet Hillenbrand and have him autograph their books. He will also read stories and draw during the event.
Hillenbrand explained that author visits like this one enable children to understand that a writer is a real person, and it makes the books personal. Artists are “mark” makers, not with a pen, but with an impression. After an author visit, kids “not only re-read the story,” he said. “They relive the experience.”
Deborah Sullivan is community relations director for the York County Library System.
If you go
What: GOAL Celebration
When: 1:30 to 3:30 p.m. Nov. 10, 2012
Where: West Manchester Mall, West Manchester Township
Details: Event features storytelling and drawing by Will Hillenbrand, storyteller Beth Rebert, and face painting by Changing Faces 4 Fun
More about GOAL
In 2011, 3,255 first-grade students signed up for library cards through the GOAL program from public, private, parochial, and home schools. The 33 teachers who had 100 percent classroom participation had the opportunity to have lunch with author Will Hillenbrand the day of the celebration. Their names were also put in a drawing to win a free author visit for their school. Georgia Cavadel, a teacher for the School District of the City of York, was the lucky winner.