The Washington Times-Herald

December 7, 2013

Book fairs help raise literacy rates across the land

By Lindsay Owens Times Herald
The Washington Times-Herald

---- — At Lena Dunn Elementary the annual winter book fair is big deal for more reasons than one. The timing is perfect for families with Christmas just around the corner and getting books into the hands of children is the key to improving literacy not just at Lena Dunn but in schools across the state and country.

Melba Spivey teaches Title I at the elementary school that hundreds of children, many who come from homes where English is a second language, call home five days a week. Spivey said that the response of the book fair each year is overwhelming.

“We encourage all of our students to get a book during the fair,” said Spivey. “Most all of them do buy at least one. The students love the book fair. They all get excited about looking at all the books.”

In addition to buying the books, Spivey said that after each purchase, the students put their name in for a drawing. The winner gets approximately $100 worth of books. Another book fair, a buy one get one free event, is hosted at the school in the spring as well.

Statistics from the National Center for Education Statistics, a division of the U.S. Department of Education, show that the more types of reading materials in the home, including newspapers and magazines, the higher students are in reading proficiency.

A study from the NCES also determined that students who are read to at home have other advantages over children who are not read to at home. Only 53 percent of children ages three to five were read to on a daily basis by a family member and children from families who live below the poverty line are less likely to be read to aloud than children who live above or at the poverty line.

The book fair, which has been a staple for Lena Dunn for at least a decade, hopes to help change some of those statistics. “We want our students to have more books in their hands. It’s important for them to improve as readers and we want the students to read at home as well as in school.”

Superintendent of Public Education Glenda Ritz also stressed the importance of reading when she visited Washington Thursday.

“It should be the mission of Hoosiers to a build a culture of readers,” said Ritz.

To help build that culture, Ritz launched Hoosier Family of Readers earlier this year to help keep students and families reading.

The program, which has been implemented into over 175 organizations around the state including the National Guard, also offers families the opportunity to read more than 3,000 digital books from myON Books at no cost. myOn allows students to download as many as 20 titles for offline reading using free mobile apps for iPad and Android tablets. The books are available anytime and anywhere as long as there is internet access.

The portal myOn offers about 70 percent nonfiction, 10 percent Spanish or dual language, and 20 percent Hi-Lo titles but the offerings continue to grow.

“We want and need students to be reading outside of school. Reading is a key indicator of success in the classroom,” said Ritz, who is not only a teacher but also a media specialist.

Ritz also expressed how important book fairs can be to students.

“Book fairs are a wonderful way to get books to children especially to those who may not otherwise have much access to them. Schools can often request overstock or bargain books for their students as well as books in other languages,” she said. “This helps to ensure that nearly every child can purchase a book.”

Now that students in third grade must pass the state mandated IREAD-3 assessment, reading has become even more important both in and out of the classroom and other agencies are trying to step up efforts to help children and families gain more access to books and other reading materials.

Lori Osmon, children’s librarian at the Washington Carnegie Public Library said that summer brings in more families to get books but she hopes that will change.

“Summer is the busiest time but in the winter I think families become more dependent on teachers and schools to get reading materials to their children but we do have several that come in for story time and other programs we have.”

The Washington library offers a variety of children’s books and a selection of books for youth that are in Spanish as well as bilingual book.

“With the bilingual books, the books can be read in their native language as well as in English,” said Osmon.

For reader’s that struggle the library also offers several books on tape or CD so that students can listen as they follow along with the book. The library staff can also help parents choose books for the Accelerated Reader program. “We can help parents find books for their students in the correct reading level,” said Osmon.

Parents and guardians who want to get a jump start on their child’s reading can also participate in the 1,000 Books Before Kindergarten program. The program offers incentives to keep parents reading to their children and is offered for children from birth until age five who have a Washington public library card.

Parents are given a reading record from the library to keep track of books.

A program similar to 1,000 Books is also available for school age children and the library keeps a log of the child’s books as well.

Incentives are also given when the child completes a log.

For more information on the programs for children offered at the Washington Carnegie Public Library, contact the library at 254-4586.

Additional information on the Hoosier Reading Family program and myOn can be obtained by visiting www.doe.in.gov/improvement/hoosier-family-readers .