|Casper Journal Articles
From the Natrona County Public Library
Reading is Fun - Library Outreach in Schools
By Jerry Jones, Youth Services Coordinator
January 11, 2006
The holidays may be over, but during the next few weeks, over 900 students in Natrona County schools will receive a gift from the library. The gift is a free book and is made possible by the Reading Is Fundamental program, or RIF, as we like to refer to it. RIF is one of NCPL’s biggest outreach programs, and since its inception nearly 30 years ago, thousands of free books have been given to students in our community.
RIF started in the late 1960’s in Washington, D.C., when former school teacher Margaret McNamara realized that some boys she was tutoring had never owned a book. McNamara’s response was to gather a group of teachers and other volunteers to collect and donate used books to these students. Her grass roots initiative soon spread and within a few short years, Congress began supporting her efforts by funding RIF.
Natrona County Public Library was able to adopt this program due to the generosity of the Friends of the Library, who provide funding to purchase the books. Our RIF program mainly serves 2nd and 5th graders in the fourteen Title 1 schools in Natrona County. In some schools, we are also able to include other grade levels. Librarians visit these schools three times a year, and each time the students get to choose a paperback book to keep as their very own. Just like the experience McNamara had in Washington, D.C., we also find that many of these students don’t have books in their homes. It’s very exciting to see their reactions when we tell them we brought loads of paperback books, and they each get to have one—they don’t have to give the books back when we return for another distribution; they don’t have to bring them back to the school library; and best of all, they don’t have to buy them—they are free!
Before the students select their books, we explain the RIF program and the importance of reading. We point out some of the simple everyday things like driving a car, grocery shopping and even playing games on the computer, with which reading will help throughout their lives. We also stress that reading can be fun, thus the nickname—Reading Is Fun.
Another important element of the RIF program is the inclusion of a motivational activity at each distribution, and for us this means storytelling. Storytelling gives us the opportunity to introduce children to books as well as the oral tradition of sharing stories. Often, we embellish the storytelling with puppets, flannelboards or even just vocal expression to make the tales memorable. But whatever the embellishment, the students usually sit in wide-eyed amazement when they realize we aren’t reading from a book.
It’s very important for parents to be involved in the reading lives of their children. If your child attends one of the schools we serve through the RIF program, we invite you to attend our next distribution; please call 237-4935 ext. 122 for more information. You can also visit the Reading Is Fundamental website at www.rif.org for activities and ideas to motivate your kids to read.
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