York libraries work to introduce more children to the love of books

Meredith Willse
York Dispatch

York County Libraries launched its 15th year of Grade One At the Library, or GOAL, a program to get a library card in every first grader’s hands. 

Jaclyn Cassidy, the system's youth services director, said the program's aim is to supply 3,000 of the roughly 5,500 first graders across the county with a library card this fall.

"Once we get those children through the doors of the library, their world opens up,” she said, explaining that it is best to introduce children to the library when they are young. 

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Cassidy said this is an age group where reading changes for the children as they start to mostly read on their own, rather than adults reading to them. 

“This is when reading explodes for young children,” she said, adding the students are starting to decode words by themselves. 

GOAL author Tony Fredericks, a nonfiction and children's author and former professor at York College, said first grade is the first time the students come into contact with academics and formal reading skills. 

“Books in the hands of a 6-year-old is a marvelous concept,” he said, explaining if children's authors did their job right, the children will learn there is a whole world to explore. 

He said books help the children want to explore, research questions and create questions. 

Martin Library, at 159 E. Market St. in York, PA.

“Reading books to kids and making books available to kids is one of the most positive ways we could get kids out on a road to academic success," Fredericks said.

If the students have a card, they can start picking out books they are interested in, such as Mo Williams’ "Elephant and Piggie" series, which Cassidy said is a popular series and great for beginning readers. She said other popular books can include favorite TV characters or maybe a favorite from the parents’ childhood. 

Since the program started in 2008, the library has given out a total of 38,785 library cards to first graders.

Schools are sending letters and applications home with the children for parents to fill out. 

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Cassidy said the library will collect the applications through mid-October and mail the cards to the children’s homes. She added the cards are already starting to mail out. 

Once the child receives the card, they can start browsing the library’s books. 

In addition to physical books, the library has digital offerings including books, audiobooks and storybook videos.

York County Libraries Youth Services Director Jaclyn Cassidy, behind the circulation desk of the Kreutz Creek library in 2021.

Cassidy said the library will give children prizes such as pencils, frisbees and a free book by Fredericks called "Tall Tall Tree," the first three times they visit the library. 

Fredericks will sign books and read stories at 10 a.m. Nov. 12 at Dover Area Community Library, 3700-3 Davidsburg Road, to celebrate the participants and their families.

He believes if his passion can shine through his work, then the readers will experience the same passion. Then the parents and the teachers will also be able to project that same amount of passion when they read aloud. 

“I want kids to discover some things on their own, ask their own questions and pursue their interests,” Fredericks said.  

— Reach Meredith Willse at mwillse@yorkdispatch.com or on Twitter at @MeredithWillse.