Gift Book Program Promotes Reading

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By Liz Premo, Atlantic News Staff Writer

Atlantic News, Friday, January 5, 2007

[The following article is courtesy of Atlantic News]

HAMPTON -- Pre-school students from the Hampton Head Start program enjoyed hearing "Where the Wild Things Are" during a recent visit to the Lane Memorial Library in Hampton.

Paulina Shadowens, head of Children's Services, welcomed and read Maurice Sendak's familiar tale to the youngsters, whose visit was part of "Season's Readings," a program offered through Rockingham Community Action's Gift of Reading program.

Shadowens read to the group as a whole in the Lane Room, before they broke off into smaller numbers to take their pick of one title from a collection of brand new hardcover books on display nearby. The selection included "Goodnight, Moon," "I Once Ate a Pie," "The Little Engine That Could," and "Where the Wild Things Are."

Now in its 18th year, the "Seasons Reading" program promotes literacy by reaching preschool children whose families are least able to afford books. This helps them build home libraries and gives children a chance to own quality books.

The Lane Library is one of 25 libraries around Rockingham County which participated as a host site in this year's "Seasons Reading" gift book program. More than 1000 eligible participants from RCA's Women, Infants and Children (WIC) and Head Start programs take part, bringing home more than 7500 books since the Gift of Reading began.

According to RCA Literacy Services Coordinator, Kristy Conrad, fundraising for the purchase of these books is community-based, with support coming in from organizations such as the Rotary Club, corporations including HCA Portsmouth Hospital, civic organizations and individuals.

The importance of reading aloud to children, for them to hear spoken language while being read to as well as to touch and feel books is emphasized through the Gift of Reading program.

"We encourage all of our participating families to read aloud as early and often in their child's life as possible," says Conrad. "We encourage them to continue to read together, even once their children can read independently."

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