Literacy and communication skills are vital in society today and an early introduction to literacy through a breadth of experiences of rhymes, stories, pictures and books supports these skills. Encouraging young children and their families to access a library with all its resources can provide a great foundation for developing early literacy. There are many routes into reading and practitioners – early years librarians, carers and educators – should capitalize on all of them. Parents are in the best position to introduce their children to the world of words and families can be attracted into the library services by the range of practitioners who work with young children. Early years librarians need to provide positive conditions for all children and their families, so they can access the vast range of books and literacy resources available within libraries. Did you know that a major study of reading (Kirsch, 2002) concludes that reading for pleasure is more important to a child's educational achievement than its family's wealth or social class?
Children's services are receiving a high profile today, as policy-makers are concerned about effective education and the level of reading skills for the Information Age. This first chapter aims to set the scene for early years practitioners in terms of the UK government agenda. The political policies that influence and shape what is offered to our communities and how it will be delivered will be explored. It is important for practitioners to be effective in developing and delivering a range of services to meet local needs, using the techniques of community profiling. This chapter examines a range of issues related to meeting community needs. Proactive library authorities will use community profiling to develop and customize services to meet the needs of their local communities. Community profiling will be further explored in Chapter 2. Funding, sustainability and accountability are at the centre of most initiatives, but many practitioners may not be aware of the political landscape in which services are delivered. How strong is your professional voice in your parent organization or multi-agency setting? This chapter will explain how important your provision is within the increasingly complex landscape of early years provision in the UK. As an early years practitioner you are an advocate for literacy, and your practices are the tools of such advocacy.