Live, Laugh, Love to Read: Literacy and Family Engagement at the Library of Congress

On April 28, 2016, the Library of Congress hosted 250 children and their families at Take Our Daughters and Sons to Work Day,  an annual event—and one of the largest of its type in the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area—that has been supported by the Take Our Daughters and Sons to Work Day Foundation since 1993. Bryonna Head, Chair of the Activity Center, describes below how the day engaged children and their families around literacy, reading and careers.

Take Our Daughters and Sons to Work Day is more than just a career day; it is about mentoring, and its origins are rooted in social justice and equality. Celebrated on the 4th Thursday of every April, Take Our Daughters and Sons to Work Day was originally created to cultivate positive self-esteem in young girls, empowering and encouraging them to make connections between academic success and a balanced and positive work life. (In 2007, the program expanded to include boys.)  The foundation’s use of the term “our children” has always intended the inclusion of kids beyond the immediate household, welcoming children from extended family or friends, as well as the wider local community. 

The theme for this year’s event was “Sparking Aha! Moments,” and so as the Library of Congress planning committee, we knew we needed to ignite a thought, spark and idea, or inspire a dream. In the broader context of closing bookstores and the popularity of e-readers, we considered how we can still share with children the joy of reading, or of visiting the local library to read, interact, and discover a good book. The ‘spark’ we hoped to impart is that reading is not only educational—it can be joyful. (As a kid, I remember reading my favorite books, and using my imagination to create stories of my own. In school, I wrote the best book reports when I could choose a book that interested me and share it with my peers.) For all ages—toddlers, kids, teens and adults—reading is a part of life that can connect us, and take us on journeys that live on in our memories and imaginations. 

At the Library of Congress, we try to spark these “aha!” moments every day by engaging the community and sharing the joy of reading. Our Young Readers Center is a place especially designed for young people to interact with books and reading through special programs, exhibits and events. The Young Readers Center works hard to cultivate the love of reading among youth, and to educate parents on how they can continue that encouragement at home. (For example, for children who love to play video games, read a book together about video game design!) In addition to the Young Readers Center, the Library of Congress hosts—through participating local public libraries—the ‘A Book That Shaped Me’ Summer Writing Contest that encourages rising 5th and 6th graders to reflect on books that have made a personal impact on their lives. This is a fun and rewarding way to encourage literacy through family and community involvement. (And winners will be honored at the National Book Festival in September!) 

The joy of reading is a right of passage for life, liberty, and literacy. Through programs like Take Your Daughters and Sons to Work Day, and our ongoing efforts through resources like the Young Readers Center and Summer Writing Contest, the Library of Congress is committed to helping all young people access joy through reading, and make connections between that joy and academic and professional achievement.

Photo: Shawn Miller