Encouraging wee readers


There are any number of practical reasons why it is important for young children to become dedicated readers. Most significantly, an increasingly demanding educational system and a global economy that puts a premium on education require it. Reading, of course, is also fun, a way to enrich lives by exploring other worlds, learning about other people and simply reveling in the richness of language. The earlier the start, the better.

Monday, April 11, marks the beginning of Wee Read Berkshire County, a countywide early childhood literacy celebration marking both The Week of the Young Child and National Library Week. Next week, early-childhood providers and Berkshire libraries will distribute 1,200 free copies of the book "Shoes" (the cover is pictured opposite) by Elizabeth Winthrop, a part-time resident of Williamstown, and illustrated by William Joyce. Local reading events and Story Walk programs will be offered throughout the county. (See www. for details.)

Statistically, a solid majority of children who have trouble reading in third grade will continue to struggle in school and are less likely to graduate from high school than their peers. This will hinder their career paths and also deprive them of realizing the joys of reading. In the era of texting and tweeting, which do real damage to language, it is that much more important for young people to understand the importance of language to communicate clearly and efficiently.

Along with the book "Shoes," young readers will receive a bookmark from the Berkshire Compact for Education offering tips on reading that will be of particular value to parents of young children. Among them are setting aside daily reading time, borrowing books from the local library and encouraging family and friends to give children books as gifts.

Along with the Berkshire Compact and Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts, a variety of county organizations are participating in Wee Read, among them Head Start, ChildCare of the Berkshires, the United Way's Early Childhood Think Tank, the Pittsfield Community Partnership for Children and of course the Berkshire Athenaeum and the libraries of the Berkshires. By enriching the lives of young people a community enriches itself, and there is no better path to that enrichment than by encouraging children not only to read but to learn to love reading