First Book makes grants

Public can help program May 4

First Book-Hood River County recently awarded six book grants for a total of 1,590 books to be distributed by local organizations to children in the community.

First Book-Hood River County is a local organization dedicated to providing low-income children in our community with new, high-quality books. The mission of First Book, which is a national nonprofit organization ( has a single mission: to provide new books to low-income children (birth to 18 years), addressing one of the most important factors affecting literacy: access to books.

The First Book grants were chosen by the First Book-Hood River County advisory board and awarded to children at May Street and Cascade Locks elementary schools, New Parent Services Healthy Start home visiting program (birth to 3), Oregon Child Development Coalition (Migrant Head Start), Mid-Columbia Children’s Council (Head Start) and the Hood River Valley High School teen parent program.

Due to smaller funds this year the each child will receive three books instead of the usual six.

The following story, from May Street School ESL teacher Damien Elderkin, is an example how First Book has helped improve the literacy of local children in Hood River County:

“Most people know the saying: ‘It takes a community to raise a child.’ However, for two students at May Street, the saying should read: ‘It takes a community to educate a child.’ This has been the case for two extremely timid sisters who came to us as a second- and a third-grader.

“Upon arrival neither girl was literate in her native tongue nor could she speak any English. Their education had been tumultuous to say the least; with constant interruptions in their schooling, due to school cancellations and closures, the girls had attended school less than 50 percent of the time.

“With a team effort of teachers, literacy in their native tongue, uncounted volunteer hours by many who sat, side by side, reading with each girl, and the many books donated through First Book, both girls have learned to read and write in their native language and have since moved on to English.

“As their skills have developed, much more than just their literacy abilities have blossomed. We have watched them emerge, like new butterflies, into a literate world.

“Now, these once silent girls laugh and joke, speak with minimal hesitation with adults and are developing healthy peer relationships. They still have a lot to learn but as their abilities grow so does their confidence. They show excitement for new education challenges and beam with confidence when they understand each new concept.

“The girls have been participating in the First Book program for three years. Their parents, with their limited English, have been excited and grateful for the books the girls have received. Due to First Book their home library has gone from zero books to more than 30 books, including books in their native language, English, bilingual, multiple reading levels and at least one bilingual dictionary.

“It is exciting to be part of a community who has helped teach these wonderful girls how to read.”


First Book-Hood River County will be at First Friday May 4 in front of Waucoma Bookstore. Bookplates will be sold for $3 that will be placed in books to be given out to local children. Bookplates can be made in honor or in memory of a loved one.

Bookplates can also be purchased by calling Nancy Johanson Paul at 541-490-5330 or by giving a tax-deductible donation to First Book-Hood River County, P.O. Box 221, Hood River, OR 97031.

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