It’s National Library Card Sign-Up Month!

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It's National Library Card Sign-Up Month!

Posted by STAIR-Annapolis on September 15, 2021

September is National Library Card Sign-Up Month and there's never been a better time to show your local branch some love!

In our increasingly digital world, it can be easy to discount the importance of public libraries. After all, who needs books or magazines when most of us carry the entire internet around in our pockets? But our libraries provide so much more, and a library card is your ticket to it all!


Public libraries are free, for everyone. Every single resource, from books and magazines to music and movies, is offered to the whole community regardless of education, income, religion, political beliefs, age, or social status.


In many places, public libraries serve as support centers for the homeless and underserved. People in need can come to the library to seek shelter, to learn, to look for employment, or to simply pass the time with a good book. Right here in Anne Arundel County, our very own Discoveries: The Library at the Mall has recently opened a community pantry, where families in need can pick up diapers, wipes, and personal hygiene products.


Libraries provide an economic boost for local communities by making space for telecommuters and job seekers, offering free resources for small business owners and entrepreneurs, and hosting free events to teach people about financial literacy, estate planning, and more. Libraries can also improve the physical well-being of patrons through free fitness classes, healthcare resources, and health-related information.


Our littlest learners can also reap the many benefits of the local library, even if they're still too young to read independently.

Why do kids need libraries?

  • The pride and excitement that's evident when a child holds his or her very first library card.
  • Borrowing library books teaches kids responsibility and how to be accountable when entrusted with something that doesn't belong to them.
  • Having a library card makes kids feel a part of their community.
  • The freedom to browse the shelves and choose any book that catches the eye are two of the most essential rights of every reader, young or old.
  • Regular visits to the library can spark a lifelong love of books and learning in even the most hesitant reader.

Our friends at Anne Arundel County Public Library have made it easier than ever to get a library card--you can apply right online! If it's been a while since you paid a visit to your local branch, it's a great time to get reacquainted. There's so much to discover at your local public library!

A September Reading Challenge

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A September Reading Challenge

Posted by STAIR-Annapolis on September 1, 2021

What better way to ease back into the routine of a new school year than with a Back to School reading challenge?!

For many students, this September marks the first time they've been in a school building in nearly two years. That's a long time away from the classroom! Meeting students where they are and recreating a love of learning will be keys for educators this year, and this month's reading challenge is all about low-pressure pleasure reading.

Daniel Pennac's "The Rights of the Reader" is widely regarded as a roadmap for helping striving readers develop a natural love of reading. It reminds us all that the freedom to explore is a crucial part of the reading adventure for everyone!

The Rights of the Reader

1. The right to not read.

2. The right to skip pages.

3. The right to not finish.

4. The right to re-read.

5. The right to read anything.

6. The right to escapism.

7. The right to read anywhere.

8. The right to browse.

9. The right to read out loud.

10. The right to not defend your tastes.


Remember: The only "right book" is the one that your child is reading right now! 

For a simple September reading challenge that's easy to adapt to any age, reading level, or genre preference, follow the list below. One book per week, every week this month:

  • Read a book with the word "SCHOOL" in the title.
  • Read a book written by a teacher.
  • Read a book set in a classroom, at a school, or on a college campus.
  • Re-read a favorite book!

Good luck! We'll be back next month with a new reading challenge for you. Until then, keep reading!

Encourage Young Readers with a Welcoming Literacy Space

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Encourage Young Readers with a Welcoming Literacy Space

Posted by STAIR-Annapolis on August 11, 2021

Getting your child to willingly read a book at home can be a struggle. With distractions like TV, video games, outside play with friends, and after-school activities, how can books compete?

For lots of families, the answer is to create a warm, welcoming space that invites kids to engage with books and encourages literacy, even if they don't sit still long enough to finish a whole book or aren't quite ready to read independently yet.

The Benefits of a Designated Reading Space

  • Helps make reading a relaxing, enjoyable part of your family's daily routine
  • Sends a clear message about the importance of reading
  • Shows kids that reading can happen anywhere, not just at school
  • Invites kids to explore books on their own time and at their own pace
  • Offers a great alternative to screens and can help cure "I'm bored!"-itis

Tips for Creating a Welcoming Literacy Space in Your Home

Your reading nook doesn't have to be fancy--or even very big--in order to benefit the young readers in your life. A comfortable chair in the corner of the family room, a bean bag or a few pillows stacked in a corner, or even a blanket tucked into a closet are all great ideas for small spaces.

  • Make sure you include a comfortable place to sit and good lighting.
  • Use low shelves or a sturdy box to store books so kids can reach them easily and safely without help.
  • Repair or replace torn books.
  • Rotate books often to keep the selection fresh and ensure kids get excited about finding "new" books in their collection.
  • Create variety by including fiction and nonfiction books, magazines, even catalogs or newspapers that might capture your child's interest.

How to Stock Your Home Library

New books can be expensive, but there are lots of different ways to stock an amazing home library without spending a fortune.

  • Shop for books at yard sales and thrift stores.
  • Take advantage of Little Free Libraries in your neighborhood.
  • Visit your local library! Now that all Anne Arundel County Public Library materials are fee-free, you can keep books at home for longer without incurring late fines or penalties.
  • Search Facebook Marketplace or your local neighborhood buy/sell/trade groups.
  • Arrange a free book swap with neighbors, friends, and family. Everyone can bring their gently used books and kids will have a blast "shopping" for their home libraries.

For more tips and inspiration for creating a warm, welcoming reading space in your home, check out these links:

Creating a Home Library (Reading Rockets)

Build Your Own Home Library (Kids Read Now)

10 Creative Reading Nook Ideas for Kids (Lemon & Kiwi Designs Blog)

12 Ideas for Creative Reading Spaces for Kids (The Spruce Blog)

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An August Reading Challenge

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An August Reading Challenge

Posted by STAIR-Annapolis on August 4, 2021

As we head into the last official month of summer, August provides a chance to give in to a slower pace for just a little while longer. The busyness of back-to-school time will keep! So enjoy this final reading challenge of the summer.

Reading is one of the best ways to support "brain gain" over long school breaks. Students who read just a few minutes each day are more likely to retain more of the grade-level skills and proficiency they've gained during the school year. This establishes a good foundation for kids' return to school in the fall. You can read more about the benefits of summer reading for children here.

For a simple August reading challenge that's easy to adapt to any age, reading level, or genre preference, follow the list below. One book per week, every week this month:

  • Read a book in an usual place: under a tree, on a swing, poolside, at the beach, etc.
  • Read a book from the bottom of your "to be read" pile.
  • Listen to an audiobook of your choice while you do something outside, like taking a walk or gardening.
  • Read a "pandemic" book published in the last six months. 

Good luck! We'll be back next month with a new reading challenge for you. Until then, keep reading!

STAIR Supports Summer Brain Gain

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STAIR Supports Summer Brain Gain

Posted by STAIR-Annapolis on July 21, 2021

Hundreds of years of educational research have proven that kids need to stay engaged in some kind of learning over the summer. Long school breaks can be detrimental to the learning process, with some students losing as much as two month's worth of grade-level proficiency in core subjects. That's a lot!

"Summer brain gain" is aimed at providing children with educational opportunities throughout the summer months. Things like STEM and STEAM camps, school-sponsored programs, museum and library outreach, and outdoor educational programs all help kids stay engaged in the learning process while having fun and enjoying a well-deserved break from traditional schooling.

Programs like STAIR helps support brain gain by providing students with books and activities to help keep their literacy skills sharp over the summer. We've sent hundreds of books to STAIR students and given away hundreds more at our STAIR Book Fairs. We're also providing gifts of new books to other organizations like Reading Camp Maryland who are working hard to keep young readers engaged this summer. Our Little Free Libraries restock initiative ensures that readers of all ages have easy access to books close to home.

If your summer adventures have you sticking close to home, there's plenty you can do to support brain gain, combat summer skill loss, and have fun learning together!

  1. Give screens a break. Screen time has its place on long, lazy summer days, but simple creative play is an excellent way to get kids to imagine, think, plan, cooperate, and learn.

  2. Make an "I'm Bored" jar. Have kids brainstorm fun activities, day trips, or other summer treats and write them down on slips of paper. Any time you hear that dreaded "I'm bored!" pull a paper out of the jar.

  3. Get outside. Anne Arundel County is home to beautiful parks, walking and biking trails, beaches, and outdoor spaces. Pick a new one each week and explore!

  4. Go to the library! Visiting the library is one of the simplest ways to support summer brain gain. There's so much to discover at your local Anne Arundel County Public Library branch. Don't forget to register for the Summer @ Your Library challenge!

  5. Find a pen pal. Writing practice becomes less of a chore when kids have a friend to share their summer adventures with. Family members and friends near or far make wonderful pen pals who would love to send and receive drawings, postcards, and letters.

What are some ways your family is learning together this summer? Tell us in the comments or join the conversation on Facebook!

Did You Know? STAIR Makes a Difference!

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Did You Know? STAIR Makes a Difference!

Posted by STAIR-Annapolis on July 7, 2021

If you're here, it's a pretty safe bet that you're a fan of reading. It's also likely that you understand how important it is for kids to learn to read well in early elementary school so they're positioned for academic success through middle school and beyond.

The following facts about reading might surprise you. But they also help highlight why programs like STAIR-Annapolis make a real difference in the lives of young readers.

1. Too many students don't read well enough to succeed.

According to the 2019 National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), the only assessment tool that measures American students' knowledge and aptitude in a variety of subjects, 35% of public school 4th graders read below basic achievement level, meaning they have only "partial mastery of the prerequisite knowledge and skills that are fundamental for proficient work" at grade level. You can read more about the NAEP assessment reports here.

The STAIR program works exclusively with second graders reading below grade level. We know how important it is that striving young readers get the extra support they need to catch up to their peers and achieve proficiency before they enter the more academically rigorous middle grades.

2. The "achievement gap" is real...and it matters.

Students who start kindergarten academically behind their peers often keep falling farther behind as they move through school. Language differences, limited exposure to books, and lack of prior knowledge have all been proven to contribute to some kids' reading difficulties. What's more, certain groups of students are far more susceptible to these differences--and corresponding reading challenges--than others.

STAIR targets students at the beginning of their reading adventure, before they have a chance to fall too far behind. We provide new books for home libraries, so kids always have access to high-quality, diverse reading material that matches their interests, and our volunteers are trained to support Anne Arundel County Schools literacy curriculum in an encouraging, one-on-one environment.

3. Learning to read is a complicated process.

Kids need to develop tons of skills simultaneously in order to learn to read well. In a 1990 study, educational researcher Marilyn Adams likened the process of learning to read to operating a car. But if reading is like driving, emerging readers also need to learn to:

  • Build the car (learn to identify letters, words, and sounds)
  • Service the car (gain access to a steady stream of reading material of increasing difficulty)
  • Drive the car (stay focused, motivated, and on track)

Adams went on to say that unlike building a car, reading doesn't happen on an assembly line, with one piece fitting into the next until the car is complete. "Rather, the parts of the reading system must grow together. They must grow on one another and from one another." That can be a lot for a five- or six-year-old to manage! (Beginning to Read: Thinking and Learning About Print by Marilyn Jager Adams)

The STAIR curriculum is built to help kids progress through all the moving parts of literacy development. With structured lesson plans, reading games, books, and the passion, creativity, and dedication of our volunteers, kids are able to work on the skills they need to become stronger, more confident readers.

4. Phonics is crucial to reading success.

Studies have shown that kids who struggle to read well very often have difficulty understanding that the sounds they hear in words are linked to specific letters and letter patterns.

When kids don't have a solid foundation in phonics and phonemic awareness--the principle that teaches that words are made up of letter sounds--they may have trouble gaining grade-level reading proficiency.

The STAIR-Annapolis curriculum helps kids strengthen their phonemic awareness. Our program supports Anne Arundel County Public Schools phonics instruction, giving young readers the building blocks for lifelong academic success.

5. A little extra help goes a long way.

The vast majority of below-grade level readers benefit significantly from programs and interventions that let them practice literacy skills like accuracy, fluency, phonemic awareness, and reading comprehension. With a little extra support, these students are often able to reach grade-level achievement or better in a relatively short period of time.

At STAIR, we've seen our students improve an average of more than four Fountas & Pinnell reading levels in a single academic year! Programs like STAIR give striving readers access to one-on-one attention and educator-approved strategies to help significantly boost their reading skills and their self-confidence.

For even more insight into developing readers and the importance of literacy intervention and support programs like STAIR-Annapolis, visit our friends at Reading Rockets.