NY State Learns Children’s Reading Club is Born of Lit Libraries
Libraries impact children in three fundamental ways – by teaching them to learn, by providing them with literacy tools to enable them to interact with books in a new and better way, and by building relationships with kids. These two aspects of libraries are relevant across the nation; the third (building relationships) is simply what’s happening in many libraries right now.
Macy’s Military Kids’ Bookmobile is a great example of a library making a difference. It’s a mobile resource for young soldiers returning from duty to visit the library for some downtime and to read their favorite books. And they are thrilled. “I’m just so excited to get on this truck and get back to the library,” said 2nd Lt. Trey Cerradino, a former U.S. Marine Corps infantryman who recently returned from a yearlong deployment to Afghanistan. “I feel so rejuvenated, and the library is such a wonderful place.”
The bookmobile visits places that aren’t typically accessible to young people, not only serving the military community but providing a great resource for school-age children. Since being selected as the finalist for the New York State Department of Education’s 2013 Commendate Education System Awards, the bookmobile has visited about 100 schools across the state. “It was so much fun!” wrote fifth grader Ryan Pizero, after a recent visit to a Long Island school. “The library on the bookmobile was super cool. It was so bright!”
Macy’s bookmobile program follows the success of the Children’s Reading Club, a tool that uses online reading games, prizes, and a weekly newsletter to help connect children with the library. The club has grown to include over two million kids over the last three years, and recently released its annual report on the results of the club’s programs, which included almost 3 million eBooks provided through the Children’s eBook Library at Stop & Shop through July of this year.
Children who benefit from a walk-in library card don’t even have to go to the library. Ronald McNair, president of the New York State Association of School Libraries, pointed out that most free public schools in the state have expanded their own libraries to include online and eBooks. At two of the largest school libraries in the state, City Collegiate Public Schools in the Bronx and Hackensack University Medical Center in New Jersey, what started as a pilot program is now available to nearly every school. “It can be accessed from anywhere, at any time, on any device,” McNair said. “Our message is that the idea of the walk-in library is going away, and it’s going to be an e-library.”
Macy’s bookmobile makes a difference, but libraries work in all sectors of society. In her remarks, McNair added, “Before this pilot program began, 300 libraries in New York state had computers in their closets. In a typical community library, that could be 20 to 30 items, and when people finished using it, they would throw it away.” Libraries across the nation are seeing a similar shift in priorities: they’re now working to improve access to learning through research, computing, and digital learning and to encourage digital content and devices so that everyone in a community, including young people, has the opportunity to connect with online resources. “From the bookmobile to the Internet, libraries are connecting people with what’s best for them and the future of our community,” McNair said.