LAFAYETTE, INDIANA (WLFI) - Many years ago, education leaders in our area said developing literacy among preschool students would be vital to the success of our community in the long run. It was then that Colleen Reader raised her hand, and said she would take on the challenge. A retired speech pathologist, Reader knew how important it was to get books into the hands of children at the earliest age.
It's the joy that a new book brings the children that Colleen Reader loves so much. Each week, a cart full of new and sometimes gently used books, rolls into the classrooms of Head Start and Tippecanoe County Child Care Centers. It's called Book Cycle. A program Reader started in 2003.
"These children are given an opportunity to choose two brand new books, and the key there is it's a book they choose. And those books are theirs to keep forever and ever as long as they like them. If they would like to, on a weekly basis, they may bring one of those back and trade it for another book," said Colleen Reader.
And so the cycle continues. Reader says by the time a child enters kindergarten and leaves child care, they may own eight new books and have been exposed to hundreds of others on a weekly basis during the book trade. She and her volunteers write grants and ask for donations to buy the books that keep Book Cycle going.
Some books are about fun and adventure, others on the cart are more about educating. Reader said all of the books serve to grow a child's mind and imagination. She said kids who live in a home with as few as 25 books are more likely to complete an average two more years of school than a child growing up in a household with no books.
"I thought, you know, every child should have the opportunity to have a book that they just love so much. They want it to be read over and over and it's dog-eared and even when they're grown up they love that book," said Reader.
Reader said improving literacy before kindergarten could help children achieve better grades once they start their primary education.
Reader said a group called the Children's Literacy Coalition has recently formed.
The group will look at current programs and how available books are to children, identify gaps where students may not be served and to create community awareness about the importance of books and reading with young children.
The Coalition will hold a book fair introducing itself at Barnes and Noble on December 4.
If you would like to help support Book Cycle, you can make checks payable to Bauer Family Resources. Please print Book Cycle on your check. Mail to Book Cycle, care of Mary Springer at 4686 State Road 28 East, Lafayette, Indiana 47909.
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