Whether it's "Cat in the Hat," "Fancy Nancy" or "Diaries of a Wimpy Kid," books are essential to childhood learning.
When it comes to reading, the earlier the better, said Linda Mallery, case manager for the Altoona Area School District Family Literacy Program.
With the urging of the Altoona Area School District Family Literacy Program, the Blair County Commissioners recently passed a proclamation naming November as Family Literacy Month.
Tina Klopp of Altoona reads “Fancy Nancy” to her 6-year-old granddaughter, Kendra.
Family Literacy Program officials are trying to spread the word about the free program and attract more Blair County families. The program started in 2000, but recruitment starts again every June.
A state family literacy grant allows for 25 families to participate. There are about 10 families registered for the program in Blair County so far this year. There are no income requirements, and Blair County parents with children 8 years old and younger, and a desire to further their education, can participate.
"The importance of early literacy education cannot be stressed enough," Dee Martin-Spallone, case manager and parent educator for the Altoona Area School District Family Literacy Program, said. "We are trying to reach the early childhood population and make a difference at early childhood."
When Tina Klopp of Altoona was a young mother, she wasn't aware of the benefits of reading to young children.
Years later, as a grandmother raising her 6-year-old granddaughter, Kendra, Klopp decided to enroll in the Family Literacy Program. Klopp found the program when she planned to finish her GED.
Along with furthering her education, Klopp decided to take part in Family Literacy programs with Kendra.
"It's fun, and you can do a bunch of activities with your kids. You also get a book each time you go. It gives you an opportunity to read to your child. It's very important to read to your child," Klopp said. "It's good to read to your child every day."
The program includes four components: adult education, child education, parenting education and interactive literacy activities.
Case managers help parents reach their educational goals, provide parenting education activities and encourage parents to participate in their child's education, as well as provide reading opportunities and activities.
While some parents often read to their children, others come to the Family Literacy Program not fully understanding the importance of reading to children.
"Some families are reading. Some are not. Some are very uncomfortable reading. Some reading levels are very low. Reading may just not be something that's in their routine or they might not have very many books at home," Mallery said.
The Family Literacy Program gives parents the tools to help themselves, and also creates a pro-reading environment at home, including giving books to families to build their home libraries.
Sarah Ammerman of Altoona sought out the Family Literacy Program about eight years ago. She wanted to take classes to "brush up" on reading and math skills so she could go to college to become a teacher. With young children, life got in the way, and she wasn't able to make it to college.
"I had to work, and I wasn't able to go to the extended classes," Ammerman said.
Ammerman, who has four daughters: Alexandria Shannon, 11; Angela, 8; Adriana, 4; and Aleaha, 3, recently started back with the Family Literacy Program.
"All my kids are in school, and now I can focus on my goals," Ammerman said.
Her kids love the family literacy portion of the program. They participate in activities, and Ammerman understands the importance of reading to her kids.
"The kids love it. They like the activities they provide for them. They all enjoy reading. When they were younger, I always read to them. Whenever I started going to the program, I learned more and more about how to read books to them," Ammerman said.
"The program is having fun with reading. It's not just a matter of reading a book. It's putting more emphasis on where the book can take us. What can we do in addition to the book," Martin-Spallone said. "Take a book. Open it up, and broaden your horizons."
Anyone interested in the program should call Mallery at 940-6936 or Martin-Spallone at 940-6937.