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For young kids, reading is so important. According to the USA Department of education, “Children who are read to at least three times a week by a family member are almost twice as likely to score in the top 25% in reading compared to children who are read to less than 3 times a week.“ There has been study after study showing that the introduction to reading and books at an early age can stimulate language, cognitive skills, curiosity, and memory. In this digital age, it is so important to prioritize reading early on in a kid’s life.
My niece, Kari Hurlburt, a volunteer at Whitehall Elementary School in Whitehall, NY, recognizes the importance of reading and that some kids may not have access to books. For many years, Whitehall Elementary School had a program called the 1,000 Book Club. Kari’s kids participated in the program and really enjoyed it. About 3 years ago, Kari noticed nothing had come home about the club for the year. She wondered why and found that the person who had run the program had left and there was no one to continue with it. She was concerned the club would end with no one to keep it going. As a result, Kari approached the principal and asked if she could run the program as a volunteer. The school was glad to have her and so, she began going to school once a week to distribute the books to the kids who participated in the program.
The program provides kids in Pre-K through 2nd grade with books to take home to read. Kari fills bags with 10 books for each of the kids every week. When the kids have finished reading all of the books in the bag, they bring the bag back to exchange it for another bag of ten books. At the end of the year, they get to take one book home to keep. The goal is for the students to have read 1,000 books by the end of 2nd grade. Several kids have completed that achievement. Currently, there are around 80 kids benefiting from this program. Kari is adamant that no child or family is ever asked to pay for lost or misplaced books or bags. Her goal is to get kids reading and she doesn’t want a lost book to stand in the way of that!
Since taking over, Kari has made improvements and added incentives to the program. She posts reminders on her personal Facebook page as well as on the school’s closed group for parents. She has added rewards for various reading milestones. At the 100 books read mark, students receive a restaurant gift card. At the 1,000 books read mark, they’ll receive a certificate and a $25 gift card to Barnes and Nobles. All of the students involved receive a certificate of completion or participation at the end of the 2nd grade. Also, the principal makes an announcement about students when they each reach their milestones.
Peggy decided to donate her My95 to this book program. This program receives no consistent funding. The school allows her niece to use a room to store and distribute the books. All books, bags and other supplies (labels for bags, etc.) are provided by outside sources – donations of money, books, and bags. Unfortunately, time is taking a toll on the program’s resources. Many of the books and bags are getting quite old and worn. Peggy jumped at the opportunity to donate to this very worthwhile program. This way, hundreds of more kids can have access to free books.