Reach Out and Read, which provides more than 4 million books a year to 2.5 million children nationwide, got started in Kansas City in 1997 … “We reach over 20,000 kids each year with a special emphasis on children growing up in poverty,” said Jean Harty, a development pediatrician and executive director of Reach Out and Read Kansas City. Children in the program receive a book at every well-child checkup until they reach kindergarten [12 books total].
For 30 years, I have referred hundreds of patients to [WPL] to use these valuable public resources. I did not question whether they lived in shelters, they were readers and that is what counted. I imagine the humiliation of a child, teenager or adult, who brings a robust pile of books to the circulation desk only to find that because of the residential address, he or she would be limited to only two books. As with medical care, I believe that homeless individuals and families, i.e., the people who populate our shelters, share the same rights as other citizens.
According to The Record, 50% of schoolkids in San Joaquin County, Calif., qualify for free and reduced-price lunch programs. Hunger is just one of the challenges these kids face.
[Sara] Garfield directs Stockton’s Transitional Learning Center, a school for homeless children. Students from poor families often come to school with unmet needs their more affluent peers don’t share, Garfield said. They might not have a library card or books at home … They might never have visited a museum. “Then, if you put poor attendance on top of that, or health issues, or not having adequate clothing or feeling embarrassed, it greatly compounds the problem[s].”
WebJunction has named the Carvers Bay Library in South Carolina its “Library of the Month.” Betha Gutsche profiles the library’s use of gaming in literacy initiatives:
If asked which US library is pushing the envelope on introducing interactive computer gaming in public libraries, how many would look to the most rural, poor, and isolated corner of a county in South Carolina? And if informed that this corner of the library world has a 30% illiteracy rate, a 15% unemployment rate, a poverty level exceeding 30% with up to 90% of school kids eligible for free or reduced-rate lunches … what odds would you give that it can even keep its doors open?
The East Grand Forks Campbell Library in Minnesota is currently hosting a photography exhibition titled “Portraits of Home: Families in Search of Shelter in Greater Minnesota.” The exhibit is sponsored by the Greater Minnesota Housing Fund and is available for display elsewhere.
“There’s a preconceived notion that homelessness is an urban problem,” [exhibition coordinator Julie] Delliquanti said. “Rural folks struggle with the same issues on housing. They’re isolated, and they don’t have that same sense of community and resources” … Because of the visibility of homelessness, more people are aware of it, she said. People who live in poverty are harder to identify … “How many people don’t know their neighbors are struggling or their children’s teacher is struggling? … Our service workers, teachers, fire departments, police officers, all the people we depend on … They’re working, raising children and still falling through the cracks. Somewhere, we’re failing them.”