Getting Kids to Read

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Success Stories

Building a Bridge Between the Oral Tradition and English Literacy

At the Little Priest Tribal College (LPTC) and Winnebago Public Library we do a number of innovative things. At least one of the programs we offer I have not heard of anywhere else. We call it "Reading on Request". It comes out of our experience with story time failure. People just did not want to come to the library with their preschoolers on Saturday for a story time. Now, whenever a child comes to the library, they can ask to have a story read. In a month's time, our children's librarian reads from 200 to 250 books aloud both in and out of the library.

We began to think about this when we noticed that students entering our college could not read or write at college level. One of the reasons was that most children in Winnebago were not read aloud to at home. We began to heavily promote reading aloud as a way to encourage school success. This is just one of the programs we are doing. We also have a liaison with the prenatal program at the hospital where we promote reading to infants, even prior to birth. We are developing a program where each new mother gets a packet of gifts and information from the library including a gift certificate for a free board book, a baby t-shirt that says, "Read to me!", and a pamphlet explaining all the good reasons for reading to your baby.

Today's 11th graders are the first ones who ever benefitted by these programs, and we are looking forward to seeing if our hard work is paying off.

Another service is building an audiobook collection. We have approximately 500 titles in this collection now. It helps students and others build a listening vocabulary, a necessary precursor to reading. Our children's librarian also takes books to all the day care and preschools in town and reads aloud once a week to each group. Another program we developed is taking reading aloud and library books to the teens at the Youth Center, which houses young adults in court-ordered detention, a substance-abuse treatment group, and a shelter for abused or neglected children. This program circulates as many as 20 books or magazines every week,in addition to the ones read aloud.

We read some research that shows that the more print there is in a community the higher the literacy level, and the more success there is in school. We started soliciting donations of books so that we could do book give-aways. We also have low-cost book sales frequently. We have donated boxes of books to day-care centers, schools, family literacy programs and other public libraries in Thurston County.

You can check our progress on the Nebraska Report Card web site by looking up Winnebago Public Schools.

Tips/Successful Models for Summer Reading Programs

Portal Branch Library, Arizona brings in local experts such as scientists, natural history specialists, travelers to talk about their experiences and relate this to children's books.

Blogs/Websites to Watch

  • Ideas for getting boys to read by James Moloney (Australian author of children's books and author of "Boys and Books", ABC Books, 2000).
  • Guys Read - a web-based literacy program designed to help boys find books they'd like to read.
  • Boys Read - a nonprofit website run by teachers designed to give ideas on getting boys grade 7-12 to read.

Portal Branch Library, Arizona brings in local experts such as scientists, natural history specialists, travelers to talk about their experiences and relate this to children's books.

Specific Blog Posts/Articles to Check Out

  • Getting Kids to Read - An audio broadcast from NPR's Talk of the Nation on July 6, 2005.
  • Boys and Literacy - New Hampshire Public Radio interview with author Ralph Fletcher who wrote Boy Writers: Reclaiming Their Voices and UNH Professor Tom Newkirk author of Misreading Masculinity: Boys, Literacy, and Popular Culture on December 19, 2006.