A Brief History of the 6 by 6 Program at the Johnson County Library

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6 by 6 illustrations by Brad Sneed

Happy 6th birthday, 6 by 6! The Johnson County Library introduced its “6 by 6, Ready to Read: Six Skills by Six Years” early literacy program in September 2009, which has become a huge success. In 2012, the state of Kansas adopted it as its early literacy program.  Now 80% of Kansas libraries are using 6 by 6 in some way, and it is available for use by all Kansas libraries.  The 6 by 6 program emphasizes the six skills that parents and caregivers can help children develop before they learn to read.  The six skills are: Have Fun with Books; Notice Print All Around You; Talk, Talk, Talk; Tell Stories about Everything; Look for Letters Everywhere; Take Time to Rhyme, Sing and Play Word Games. These areas are based on the skills identified in the Every Child Ready to Read program developed by The Public Library Association’s Early Literacy Project in partnership with the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development.

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Books to Go bags contain 5 books, 1 CD + book and 1 DVD that share the same theme.

Kasey Riley, Johnson County Library director of communication at the time, pushed for a like program to begin at the Library, one that would be unique and position the Library as early literacy leaders in the community.  “Let’s make this our own,” she said, and so 6 by 6 had begun.  The county librarian Donna Lauffer was a big supporter of this initiative, so it became a part of the strategic plan.   A committee was formed with Kathy McLellan, youth outreach librarian, spearheading the project.  Her perseverance and dedication proved a valuable asset.  Erin Howerton suggested the 6 by 6 name, and the committee approved.  Riley then reached out to Brad Sneed, a well-respected artist, and asked if he would consider doing the artwork to help promote the new program.

After months of organizing, talks and discussions, 6 by 6, Ready to Read was ready to go!  The Antioch Library was the first location to pilot the new program.  A Burgeon Group activity station was purchased with a grant from the Kansas Health Foundation, and the Youth Services space was redesigned to accommodate this interactive learning center.  Signs and posters were created for each location to promote the program. On Tuesday, September 15, 2009, a grand opening reception commenced with a ribbon cutting, Kindergarten readiness screenings, a presentation from 6 by 6 illustrator Brad Sneed, a concert by a local children’s musician and tours.

In 2012 Bradley Debrick, early literacy coordinating librarian, took over the running of 6 by 6.  He leads a select group of staff members called the 6 by 6 Cadre who create  booklists, maintain the Library’s popular Books To Go circulating bags and constantly develop new activities to be used in the branches. All 13 branches have early literacy activity spaces where parents can interact with their children — and the 6 by 6 skills — whenever the Library is open.

To commemorate the program’s sixth anniversary in 2015, the Johnson County Library has prepared quite a birthday celebration. This fun program will surely have a lasting effect for generations of Johnson County residents to come. Happy birthday, 6 by 6!

-Terri Bostic, Johnson County Library

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