“Cards for Kids” is a literacy initiative designed to encourage kids to use their local library. We will start by providing free library cards to all elementary school students (grades K-4) within Maine Rural School Unit (RSU) #19, which includes five elementary schools and serves eight Central Maine towns. The cards not only provide access to the Newport Cultural Center (NCC) collection, but also the ability to download ebooks through Maine InfoNet, and request materials from other libraries via InterLibrary Loan.
At the beginning of the 2016-17 school year, our “traveling librarian” will make classroom visits to hand out library cards and talk to the students about the NCC. She will also give them informational brochures to take home to their parent/guardian. As part of this initiative, we hope to purchase a book cart, a portable barcode scanner, and a selection of children’s books to create a portable “bookmobile”, so students can check out their very own library books right from their classroom. We also hope to gift each child with a special “My First Library Card” tote bag.
In addition to providing library cards, we will also host monthly Family Literacy Events. These events are a great opportunity for parents to come to the NCC and see firsthand what we have to offer them and their families. Family Literacy Events introduce books in a fun and informal atmosphere. We share popular authors and illustrators; host special guests; have dramatic and interactive readings of books; lead crafts and hands-on activities; and encourage children and parents to experience the magic of reading together. We will schedule events for weekends or evenings, to ensure that working parents/guardians can attend with their children.
Our hope is that by providing children with free access to library resources, and encouraging them to read at home, we will nurture a generation of lifelong learners–and this, we strongly believe, is beneficial not only to the children themselves, but to our community and our world as a whole.
Our library cards are free to residents of Newport. For all others, there is a yearly charge of $25.00. We first got the idea for the “Cards for Kids” program when we realized that this was prohibitively expensive for many community members. The Newport area is impoverished, with 87% of households living below the poverty line. We have several families who regularly attend library programs, and although their children ask to check out books, they are unable to because they cannot afford the $25.00 fee. We believe that EVERY child should have access to books, so this project is our way of trying to make that happen.
By working with the local schools, we will be able to reach many families, including those who might not otherwise be aware of everything the NCC has to offer. RSU #19 is currently undergoing budget cuts, with many library and literacy coach positions being eliminated, so we feel that now more than ever it is important to work with our community partners to promote and protect children’s literacy.