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Written by Jimmie Epling   

We Are with You Mr. President! 

By Jimmie Epling

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.  If you have a smartphone, tablet, or other digital device and access to the internet, the Darlington County Library System has children’s ebooks available!  Last August, we launched a special online e-book collection we call the Children’s eReading Room section with other public libraries in our consortium.

Parents and children can now browse and select age appropriate books and audiobooks by going to our website at www.darlington-lib.org and clicking on the screen button on the left side of the page.  Parents familiar with our e-book system can show their child how to borrow the books offered in the eReading Room.  There are no adult books in the children’s eReading Room as it is a separate website.  What you and your child will find in the eReading Room are some of the best books and audiobooks available.  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 check out by 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.  You will find books about Thomas the Tank Engine, the Berenstain Bears, Duck and Goose, Rocket the dog, Scaredy Squirrel, Amelia Bedelia, a “Series of Unfortunate Events”, “My Weird School”, Ramona, 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.  IMLS, in partnership with the American Library Association (ALA) and the Urban Libraries Council, will host a national dialog this year to identify and share best practices in reaching universal library card use among public school students.

The Darlington County Library System is committed to getting a library card into every child’s hands.  Reading is essential to a developing mind and future success.  For this reason, the Darlington County Library System 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.  We are dedicated to helping parents encourage their child to become a reader.  Our dream is a child will decide to read something rather than drop down in front of a screen to watch whatever is available. 

Getting a library card into the hands of a child must also be accompanied by efforts to encourage children to read at an early age. 

The Library’s children’s librarians regularly visit our Head Starts to share stories and books.  The Head Starts visit their local branch of the Library every year for a special holiday season program and a gift, a book of their own.  A couple of weeks back, the Library participated in the Head Start’s “Week of the Child” celebration in Byerly Park in Hartsville.  It was a wonderful time as our Darlington Branch children’s librarian Liz Davis led scores of children, their parents, and teachers in a song that got them doing a happy dance.  It also seemed every child wanted the Library’s colorful READ tattoo (parents do not worry, it can be washed off with a little effort). 

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 visit the schools to tell them about the fun activities we have planned for them at the Library.  During the visit, we let the students know they can find copies of the books on their school’s required summer reading list at the Library.   We even go so far as to collect the schools’ lists and post them on our website, www.darlington-lib.org, to help students and parents!  This summer, look for more cooperative efforts between the Library and Darlington Schools.

"With this initiative, President Obama acknowledges the powerful role libraries play in leveling the digital divide and empowering kids to dream big,” said Maura Marx, Acting Director of IMLS.  “We're thrilled to spotlight the work America's 16,500 public libraries do every day to inspire people of all ages to live better lives through learning and discovery.” 

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 always looking for ways to get a library card into every child’s hands “so they will have access to the learning resources” available at the Library and to encourage reading for pleasure.  We are with you Mr. President!          

May 4, 2015 

 
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