We are with you Mr. President

By Jimmie Epling
Darlington County Library System

Last week, President Barack Obama visited the Anacostia Branch of the District of Columbia Public Library to announce two new efforts “to strengthen student learning by improving access to digital content and to public libraries.” He announced the Open eBooks initiative and the ConnectED Library Challenge. These programs are part of ongoing efforts to help children develop a love of reading and discovery by making e-books and library services broadly available, particularly to students from low-income families. The Darlington County Library System welcomes these efforts as they support steps we have taken to encourage and help children become readers.

President Obama noted, “America’s librarians, like our teachers, connect us to books and learning resources that help us dream big….” He announced a new effort to provide popular books to millions of underprivileged children and young adults around the country and connect more students to their local libraries. The President noted, as readers of this column know, “that reading just 20 minutes a day can make a tremendous difference in a student’s success.” Children who become readers become leaders!

The Open eBooks initiative will make over $250 million in popular e-books from major publishers available, for free, to children from low-income families via an app. The Open eBooks app is being developed by the New York Public Library, with a $5 million grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS), which is partnering with the Digital Public Library of America and First Book to curate and deliver the e-books to students from low-income families.
Children in Darlington County do no need to wait until the Open eBooks initiative comes online. With a digital device and Internet access, library system has children’s ebooks available! Last August, we launched a special online e-book collection called the Children’s eReading Room in our consortium.

Parents and children can now browse and select age appropriate books and audiobooks on our website www.darlington-lib.org on the left side of the page. Parents an show their child how to borrow the books offered in the eReading Room. There are no adult books, as it is a separate website. Not only are you able to search by title, author, or subject, you can also find books categorized by the most common reading level systems, such as ATOS, Lexile, and grade level.

There are over 560 books and 85 audiobooks available for children in the Library’s eReading Room. They are grouped by children’s fiction, literature, nonfiction, picture books, First Readers, historical fiction, humor, mystery, science fiction, and fantasy. Books range from Thomas the Tank Engine, Amelia Bedelia, Old Yeller, and of course, Harry Potter.

Complementing the Open eBooks Initiative effort, the ConnectED Library Challenge is a commitment by more than 30 communities “To work to put a library card into every student’s hand as soon as they enter school so they will have access to the learning resources and books they can read for pleasure, all available in America’s libraries.” Statistics show that children who visited the library during kindergarten had higher achievement scores in reading and science in third grade, particularly for children in households with low income and low parental education.

The Darlington County Library System is committed to getting a library card into every child’s hands. We partnered with First Steps and Carolina Pines Hospital in the “Welcome Newborn Baby” bag program which began in March 2014. The parents of each child born at the hospital receives a “welcome bag” that includes from the Library a book, literacy information, and an invitation and application to get their newborn child a library card.

The Library’s children’s librarians regularly visit our Head Starts to share stories and books; during the holiday season program, children receive a gift, a book of their own. Each summer, the Library sponsors a Summer Reading Program for children to encourage them to read and to help prevent a “summer slide” in reading skills. We collect the schools’ lists and post them on our website, www.darlington-lib.org, to help students and parents!

The staff of the Darlington County Library System wants the best for our children. It is thrilling to have our efforts to make every child a reader spotlighted and appreciated. We are with you Mr. President!

Author: Jana Pye

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