With the help of a Ready to Read grant, the local library has $7,000 to spend to increase early literacy rates in Crook County

by: KEVIN SPERL - Youth Services Associate Mary Ryan leads Growing Tales story time at the Crook County Public Library.

The Crook County Public Library has received a $7,000 Ready to Read grant to help increase Crook County’s early literacy rates.

Established by the state Legislature in 1993 to assist local libraries in helping to achieve Oregon benchmarks for childhood learning and development, the noncompetitive grant helps facilitate summer reading programs for children up to the age of 14, and early literacy services, for those under the age of 7.

“We are at a pivotal moment in Oregon history as we move forward in implementing the governor’s education agenda,” said State Librarian MaryKay Dahlgreen. “The Ready to Read Grant program administered by the Oregon State Library has provided funding for 20 years so local libraries can work with other organizations to help every Oregon child be ready to start school and retain their reading skills over the summer.”

The impact of the grant is measured annually by libraries throughout Oregon, but its impact on Crook County is a critical factor for improving the area’s early literacy rates.

“We are very pleased to be an important part of the network throughout Crook County that is bolstering kindergarten readiness and preparing our youth for future achievements,” said Amber Smith, adult services associate.

According to Youth & Adult Services Librarian Barratt Miller, the grant amount is calculated at 85 cents per child, under the age of 14, and will be used to support the library’s early literacy and summer reading programs.

But, for Miller, the grant will also help raise awareness about the library and its free services.

To that end, the library is partnering with the Crook County Health Department, Head Start, the Larson Learning Center, and Crook County Human Services to encourage library use among families that can benefit the most from its free services. Starting March 3, these partner organizations began providing clients with information about library programs, as well as a referral card that, when presented at the library, is entered into a raffle for a $100 gift certificate to a local grocery store.

The grant also helps fund the library’s popular summer reading program, “Fizz, Boom, Read,” scheduled to run from June 17 through August 12.

Children, who read for at least 15 minutes a day, on 32 days over the summer, will be awarded free books, prizes, and a raffle ticket for several grand prizes, including a Kindle Fire. The library will also offer free children’s programs each week, featuring special guest performers that include representatives from The High Desert Museum, Mad Science Portland, and The Oregon Museum of Science.

This year, grant funds will also support several new programs for children less than 7 years of age, and their families. Currently, 86 percent of Crook County’s preschool population does not have access to preschool, and only 13 percent of last year’s incoming students met benchmarks in the statewide Kindergarten Readiness Assessment.

“Children in our community often have limited opportunities to develop the skills they need to become successful readers once they start school,” noted Miller, “One of the programs that will help children develop these crucial early literacy skills is the ‘1,000 Books Before Kindergarten,’ initiative.”

This initiative rewards parents who keep track of the number of books their child hears at home, at preschool, or at any library story time. Each child who signs up for this program will receive a free book and book bag, and, for every 250 books read, the child earns an additional free book.

Miller is also excited to offer, in the fall, an interactive letter wall, to encourage letter knowledge and counting skills, along with new playtime toys geared towards interactive learning.

“Play is one of the five early learning practices,” said Miller, “Our letter wall will be a place where kids can come in and name letters and practice making letter combination sounds.”

As a member of the district’s P-3 Alignment Implementation Committee, and working with Head Start and kindergarten teachers, Miller knows the importance of literacy programs.

“We need to continue to understand what kids are struggling with and address them to ensure they are kindergarten ready,” she said. “Kids that come to story time, and other programs that this grant allows us to offer, will get the basics of counting, animal facts and letters.”

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