University of Delaware Cooperative Extension expands literacy for children in state

Cooperative Extension partners with the Molina Foundation to hand out free booksUniversity of Delaware Cooperative Extension has partnered with the Molina Foundation, a national nonprofit organization focused on reducing gaps in health and education – specifically by improving literacy among children of low-income and high-risk families – to distribute around 30,000 children’s books donated by the foundation for use by young people throughout the state of Delaware.

Books were given away last week at the Delaware State Fair, with over 6,000 distributed to youths in attendance.

“The parents and the children just love them. They had great smiles on their faces when they got the books,” said Kathleen Splane, Extension agent and state program leader for Cooperative Extension’s family and consumer sciences program.

At the fair, teenage volunteers took fully stocked wagons and golf carts loaded with boxes of books and distributed them to children around the fairgrounds, and encouraged them to stop by the 4-H building to get more. They also took armloads of books out to distribute to fairgoers.

In addition to teen volunteers passing the books out at the fair, the Extension Scholars were called on to aid in the organization and distribution process, which was overseen by Oriole O’Neill, an Extension employee.

Some of the books will go to children in the 4-H Food Smart Families summer camps and others will be handed out at a number of distribution sites, including the food pantry at the Church of the Holy Cross in Dover and the Hilltop Community Center in Wilmington.

Splane said that those books geared toward an older, 8-12-year-old audience are being distributed through the 4-H Food Smart Families program.

“We are giving the kids bags of groceries to take home through the program and we’re putting the books in as an extra thing with that,” Splane said.

In addition to these distributions, child care providers will be invited to each of the county Cooperative Extension offices to pick up books that they can use at their sites.

A few of the titles being offered are:

  • Sophia the First and the Floating Palace by Catherine Hapka
  • The Kane Chronicles by Rick Riordan
  • Jake and the Never Land Pirates: Mama Hook Knows Best by Sharon Osbourne
  • Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters by Rick Riordan
  • Minnie’s Busy Bow-tique by the Disney Book Group
  • The Avengers: A Mighty Sticker Book by the Disney Book Group

These titles, among many others, are geared toward all different age groups for children, with about 20,000 of the 30,000 books targeted for the 3-5 child age range. Older youths are encouraged to read these preschool level books to a younger sibling, cousin or neighbor.

The books have been sorted by age range, stamped with Cooperative Extension and Molina Foundation stickers, and grouped based on their intended location: New Castle County, Kent County and Sussex County.

Many volunteers were integral in helping with this process and on one day, eight volunteers sorted and placed stickers on roughly 3,000 books over the course of three hours.

Making a difference

Many parents know that reading with their children at home is important, as it enables them to improve communication and speech skills, excel in school, make progress in logical thinking skills and enhance concentration, Splane said.

“It also helps them to learn that reading is fun,” she added. “Through this project, the Molina Foundation and UD Cooperative Extension will help expand the value that reading offers to kids.”

Splane said she believes “the generous book donation from Molina Foundation allows children throughout the state of Delaware to receive quality books that will instill a love of reading. Some older children received books for younger siblings and have enjoyed reading out loud to them.”

Article by Katie Russel

Photos by Michele Walfred

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