By Jennifer Kotila
HOWARD LAKE, MN “By the time children reach age 5, they need to have been read buckets of books,” said Howard Lake-Waverly-Winsted Community Education Director Margaret Marketon, noting that is why a program called Buckets of Books is being launched in Howard Lake.
Children who are read to at home enjoy a substantial advantage over children who are not, according to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), a division of the US Department of Education.
For instance, 26 percent of children who are read to three to four times each week between birth and age 5 recognize all letters of the alphabet, compared to 14 percent of children who were read to less frequently.
Statistics also show that children who are not read to are not exposed to the vocabulary and experiences gained from reading, Marketon noted, adding that reading to a child is also a great way to spend one-on-one quality time with them.
Buckets of Books will make free developmentally- and age-appropriate books available in buckets at business locations throughout Howard Lake for children ages birth to 5.
The program is meant to encourage families to read to their children in order to enhance kindergarten readiness and encourage literacy by third grade, and is made possible through a grant from the Initiative Foundation.
“Studies show that children who are read to are on their way to being ready for kindergarten, and reading by grade 3,” Marketon said.
Businesses throughout Howard Lake were recently sent an invitation to be a part of the program by hosting a bucket of books at their location.
Families can visit a local sponsor of the buckets of books to pick one out, then return the book to any buckets of books location when finished to exchange it for a new book.
Each book in the buckets will contain a pre-paid postcard for families to fill out and return for a drawing for Howard Lake Bucks. The postcards ask the family’s name, child’s name and age, and what book was read.
Buckets of books will be available at Howard Lake businesses Feb. 25-April 25, and more than 700 books will be available throughout the community.
In collaboration with the Buckets of Books program, HLWW Community Education is hosting an evening of literacy at the HLWW Middle School Monday, Feb. 4 from 5 to 7 p.m.
The event is free for those who register through the end of today, Jan. 28, and a $5 fee will be charged to those who register now through the day of the event.
Not only is the event open to families of children from birth to age 5, but daycare providers and early childhood teachers and staff are encouraged to attend, as well.
The evening will begin with a make-your-own sub sandwich meal, followed by literacy-focused playtime, and will end with a literacy workshop for adults, while the children continue to play.
The literacy workshop will address how parents and others working with young children can support childrens’ listening, vocabulary, reading, and writing skills using everyday experiences.
Marketon also noted McLeod County is involved in the Dolly Parton Imagination Library program, sponsored by the United Way, which sends a free developmentally- and age-appropriate book monthly to children from birth to age 5.
She encourages families in the HLWW School District who have a McLeod County address to sign up for the program at the Winsted Public Library.
Residents can also sign up for the program at the McLeod County United Way website, www.unitedwaymcleodcounty.org.
“As this goes on, we’re going to see great things happening just by these collaborations,” Marketon said.
She noted that more opportunities for making books available throughout the community are on the horizon, such as lending libraries at the preschools.
But, for now, she encourages Howard Lake residents to “look for the buckets and enjoy reading.”