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Creating readers: one child at a time

Sandy man and his grandson do the right thing by helping children in their community
by: Jim Hart Mitchell Baca, 9, discusses a favorite book with his grandfather, Dale Hauff of Sandy, a member of the Friends of the Sandy Public Library who is raising his grandson and teaching him the importance of reading.

Dale Hauff of Sandy has been a reader his entire life, and he wants to pass on his thirst for words. He wants to give back to the community that has supported him and his family for many years.

When he recently heard research had proven that children who aren't reading by age 3 are more likely to become high school drop-outs, he knew he was doing the right thing.

First, he's reading daily to his 4-year-old grandson, James Hauff.

'I think it's really important to read to children when they are young,' he said. 'It establishes a pattern of reading so they learn to read.'

He's also trying to help other Sandy children become better readers, and he's doing that the hard way.

He's encouraging one child at a time, one family at a time, to read alone and together. He's handling the Buddy Books program of the Friends of the Sandy Library.

'This (work) is a community service to get people to read,' he said. 'Reading is so important.'

Hauff is a member of the Friends, and he and his grandson have taken over the Buddy Books program that reuses books donated to the charitable support group.

He and his grandson Mitchell Baca, 9, meet once a month after Mitchell leaves his third-grade classroom at Sandy Grade School. The two walk around Sandy replenishing the supply of books they delivered the previous month in waiting rooms around the city.

They deliver children's books to places where families in need of books might congregate, such as waiting rooms in the offices of doctors, dentists and medical clinics as well as coffee shops, auto repair shops, barber shops, Laundromats and the DMV office.

'It feels good to do this,' Mitchell said, 'and sometimes I meet new friends.'

The books are donations - they're free - and Hauff says the purpose is to encourage families with young children to start reading early. The books they deliver are for kids mainly of ages 2 through 12, although some might appeal to teenagers.

Hauff and his grandson also deliver books written in the Spanish language so that monolingual parents can read to their youngest children.

'If I have books in Spanish,' Hauff said, 'and I leave them at the Clackamas County Health Center (in Sandy), they disappear right away.'

The books are too used to be sold, but not past the readable stage. Among Mitchell's responsibilities is turning the pages of each book, looking for writing to erase and finding torn pages, which must be repaired.

Most of the donated books are taken from two places, Hauff said, but local residents take books from all of the drop sites.

'(The most books taken) is just about a toss-up,' he said, 'between the Laundromat and the DMV.'

Hauff tries to arrange the books at each waiting room according to the reading level of most of the people who frequent each business - to give more choices at the appropriate reading level.

He even has some that might be described best as 'read-to-me' books.

Hauff said he decides which books to leave at each stop at the last minute - after he determines the reading-level of books previously taken.

Overall, Hauff says this project is just what he needed for his retirement.

'I'm giving back to my community,' he said, 'in a way that supports my pet project, which is get people literate - help people become readers.'

Hauff said there is a box at the library to leave donations of books no longer wanted. Those donating books to the Friends can be assured they will be supporting the library or helping families in need of books.

For more information, call the library at 503-668-5537.