By Kaylyn Christopher
Times West Virginian
Rivesville Elementary School had a classroom full of excited first-graders Friday afternoon when each student received two books to take home and call their own.
The books were provided by a partnership between the American Federation of Teachers and First Book, a nonprofit organization that helps make books accessible to children in need.
“We’re hoping we can make this a statewide program,” Vern Swisher, president of the American Federation of Labor - Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO), said. “We want to supply books to kids early on to get them early reading experience because it’s the basis for education.”
Jean Hinzman, Title I director, said having the reading material readily available is half the battle for some students.
“For kids in poverty, when it comes to buying books and magazines, the money’s not there,” she said. “The priorities are bread, utilities and rent. Books are a real luxury anymore.”
According to Sue Kelly, president of AFT - Fairmont State/Pierpont Community & Technical College, Hinzman was instrumental in demonstrating how books contribute to student success.
“Jean is the one who helped us understand that the earlier they have their own books and can look through them and learn to read with them, the better their overall lifetime performance is,” Kelly said. “And that’s what we want.”
Kelly said the goal is to expand the program to other schools.
“This was our pilot program to see if it works — to see if we got the books we wanted to get and to see if teachers and children benefit from it,” Kelly said. “It looks as though it was very well received. What we would like to do is get books to all of the Title I schools in Marion County and all of the grades.”
Kelly said that if 2,000 teachers and workers in Marion County register with First Book, they could receive a truck load of 40,000 books to be distributed to all of the children in the county’s public schools.
“That’s what we’re aiming for,” Kelly said. “We want all children to have their own books.”
Email Kaylyn Christopher at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow her on Twitter @KChristopherTWV.