Full Steam Ahead!

In February, members of the community gathered in excitement at the Frisco Public Library for the much anticipated announcement of the Ready to Read Railroad, a new early childhood literacy program that will be opening to the public later this spring. Thanks to the Frisco Chamber of Commerce and Leadership Frisco Class 19 (a vital strategizing group responsible for bringing the new and interactive Ready to Read Railroad to the Frisco Public Library), this new program is now becoming a reality!

Shelley Holley, one of the 24 members in Leadership Frisco Class 19, also works at the library. She is a liaison with the Friends of the Frisco Library and the Library Foundation, both of which offered their support for the new project. On bringing the Ready to Read Railroad to the Frisco Public Library, Ms. Holley shares, “We realized there was a need to give Frisco’s youngest residents and their parents this opportunity, but we needed a partner and funding to make it happen. We were so grateful when Leadership Frisco Class 19 stepped up, saw the need and took on the project.”

The group, which was divided up into five teams for the project, selected Whitney Brandon Faulkner as its leader, and Ms. Holley says that she has been doing a terrific job of keeping the class on task and on schedule. “It has been a delight and privilege to work with such a talented and amazing group of people. This year’s Leadership Frisco class really has to be the best class ever!” Ms. Holley says.

The Ready to Read Railroad will be exactly what it sounds like — an indoor train designed for interactive learning experiences. It will provide a learning environment to encourage early youth literacy in Frisco. To most, reading and literacy is a basic educational concept. If your child can read, it may feel like they can start school with the basic tools they need for success. According to the Frisco Public Library, children who are in kindergarten through third grade are learning to read, while from fourth grade on, kids read to learn!

An alarmingly high number of issues can result later in one’s life that stem from inadequate early literacy and comprehension. Ms. Holley says, “Throughout the Ready to Read Railroad, there are activity areas where children and adults can engage in imaginative narrative play, there are activities that encourage number and letter recognition, word and sound development and science and technology experiments, all of which will improve a child’s comprehension, vocabulary and cognitive skills.” While Frisco is lucky to have some of the most comprehensive and educational programs available for our youth, continuing to add top-notch programs that enable educational success for all is an important component of our community. “The littlest people are our biggest customers! At the Frisco Public Library, nearly 70 percent of all materials checked out are children’s materials, and nine out of every 10 people who come to library programs are children. This is a natural extension of what we do,” Ms. Holley says.

Lisa Bubert, a youth services librarian at the Frisco Public Library, says, “We are so excited because we have always wanted to offer this kind of experience to our patrons and now we finally can! Thanks to the work of Leadership Frisco, we will be able to offer a state-of-the-art early learning space that is the first of its kind across public libraries of Texas. Not only is this service one of a kind, but it will be designed by Jim Bradberry, the same architect who built Storyville for the Baltimore County Public Library System in Md. If you have never heard of Storyville, look it up and be amazed!”

At the Ready to Read Railroad, all areas of exploration will be tapped into for children to learn and grow. The masterminds behind the project know that you cannot put all of your focus in one area while ignoring another.
Variety is important, but every area of education needs to be nurtured. No one wants to see their child fall behind or be the one with delayed vocabulary development, communication or cognitive skills. Ms. Bubert shares, “This space will be designed with early literacy in mind. All decisions for activities and play opportunities will be based on current play research. (Yes, ‘play’ is a thing that is researched)! Our goal is to boost early brain development, develop school readiness skills and increase parent-child engagement in imaginative play. By targeting tese three areas, we are setting Frisco children up for a lifetime of success — all by offering an enriching play experience.”

Being a parent is one of the most important jobs there is. Providing the city’s youth with programs like the Ready to Read Railroad help parents provide inventive and advanced educational experiences and learning opportunities for children. “In many ways, the experience is what each child and parent brings to it. How do you describe the fun of being fully engaged in a play and learning environment? I would like to encourage parents and their young children to come and see for themselves,” Ms. Holley says. Parents are critical for the success of their child. Ms. Holley adds, “Research has shown that to raise a reader and prepare a child for success in school, key skills need to be developed before that child even begins school. Libraries are ideally placed to assist parents in helping their children develop these skills.”

Literacy can be developed though reading, writing, singing, talking and various play activities. If play is structured around specific learning environments, as demonstrated by the Ready to Read Railroad, a child is likely to take information from the learning experience and build upon it as they grow. Verbalization of the activity during play helps develop problem solving scenarios and critical thinking elements. Adults, parents and professionals can help young children grow by simply providing their support and the learning experiences necessary for future skill development. “Play and parent-child engagement is a huge part of our storytimes, and we do currently offer small play opportunities in the library by way of our block area, puppet stage and kitchen. However, the Ready to Read Railroad will be a totally immersive early literacy experience unlike any other of our library offerings. It takes the five pre-reading skills, singing, playing, talking, writing and reading, and gives parents and children clear opportunities to play and learn intentionally and enthusiastically,” Ms. Bubert says.

2016 will be a big year for the Frisco Public Library, not just in terms of the Ready to Read Railroad, but also because this year marks the library’s 25th anniversary! “We are celebrating 25 years of the Frisco Public Library throughout the year with special events for all ages. We are also pleased to be actively expanding our science and maker kit offerings for all ages. Members can still enjoy a wide selection of books and downloadables, but now they can also check out 3D pens and scanners, small circuitry kits and, yes, robots. At the risk of sounding snarky, anyone who says libraries are just books has not been to our library!” Ms. Bubert shares.

Before long, upon entering the second floor of the library, you will be greeted by the new Ready to Read Railroad, complete with train cars and a realistic track. This area of the library will be transformed into a unique station for kids. Leadership Frisco members are seeking donations and sponsorships to defray the cost of building and outfitting the Ready to Read Railroad. More information about donations and volunteering at the library can be found at friscolibrarytrain.com and friscolibrary.com. All aboard!