FAMILIES READ: First Book promotes literacy

First Book-Hood River County recently awarded six book grants for a total of 2,719 books to be distributed by local organizations to 501 children/youth in the community.

The grants were chosen by the First Book-Hood River County Advisory Board and awarded to children at May Street Elementary, New Parent Services Healthy Start home visiting program (birth to 3 years), NORCOR Juvenile Learning Center, Wy’east Middle School summer reading program, Klahre House Alternative School (The Next Door) and the Hood River Valley High School Teen Parent Program.

An example of this local literacy effort in Hood River County is told in the following 2012 Book Grant recipient story, according to Coordinator Nancy Johansen Paul:

One of the smallest elementary schools in our area also has the highest level of poverty (82 percent). Nearly all families are single-parent households, struggling to get by. This does not allow for extras, such as books to be read at home.

All of our families would like to support their children with learning to read; however, many parents do not have a high school diploma and struggled themselves in school. Providing the parents a way to help their children with reading is very rewarding for the parents.

First Book-Hood River County has provided books for students to take home to emphasize that the ability to read is critical in breaking the cycle of poverty. Research has shown that a major factor affecting literacy is access to books.

Just prior to Thanksgiving week break in 2012, a bag of First Book books were provided to each student in kindergarten, first and second grades. Lightweight book bags received from another agency were decorated by the librarian with each student’s name. Then certain chosen books were placed inside.

On Book Giveaway Day, each class came to the library where the principal explained the purpose of the bags and how First Book had provided them. Students then received their bags and pored over the books inside. For the youngest students, older elementary students came to read with them. The excitement was as high as any Christmas morning.

Students were able to take their new treasures home for the Thanksgiving break and practice reading. This helped prevent lost skills over the one-week vacation. Being able to keep their books and not have to return them to a library emphasizes the importance of being responsible and having some books of their own. We know that First Book-Hood River County has made a difference in our children’s lives.


First Book-Hood River County will be at the June 14 kick-off of the Hood River Library summer reading program. Bookplates will be sold for $3 that will be placed in books to be given out to local children.

One bookplate provides one book to a child. Ten dollars provides four books 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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