Library Kicks Offs Early Literacy Program- by Susan Kerr

The Ford City Library is hosting a new Americorps program that focuses on early literacy tutoring, healthy eating habits and fun physical activities. The program, which began August 20, 2014, and will continue through August 14, 2015, is still in its infancy.

In these early stages, tutoring will be geared toward K-3 early learners who may need a little extra help with reading, writing and math skills. We are seeking grants and other funding to support the tutoring program initially, as well as finding corporate and private donations of suitable early literacy books.

Of course, we are in need of tutors for the program. You don't have to be a professional educator to help. You only need good literacy skills, a desire to help young readers and a commitment of a few hours per month.

The afterschool and Saturday physical activity portion of the program will take advantage of nearby playground opportunities during nice weather. Donations of gently used balls, bats and other outdoor sports equipment are our number-one priorities while we're getting things rolling.

For cold or rainy weather, we are talking about folk dancing instruction – Western square dancing, the polka and similar group dances that our young readers might want to learn.

As part of the healthy eating segment of the Americorps program, we plan to teach young readers about making good food choices that are not only healthier but also more affordable than heavily processed foods. Other ideas on the table include elementary cooking lessons, a community garden next spring and a program similar to Operation Backpack.

About one third of local students qualify for federal free or reduced-price lunches, a program that provides nutritious food for low-income children during the school day. Operation Backpack-type initiatives fill in the gaps on weekends and during school holidays.

If you are interested in volunteering as a tutor, a dance instructor, a playground leader or a food program aide, we want to talk to you! If you have early literacy books or sports equipment to donate, we want to talk to you! If you are able to donate the use of a communal kitchen once a week, or can donate fresh whole foods for cooking, or want to donate shelf-stable child-size food items, we want to talk to you!

One person cannot make these programs a success. But many people doing several small things add up to a big community effort.

If you have suggestions or want to help, please contact Susan Kerr at the Ford City Library. My email is susan.kerr@armstronglibraries.org, or you can call during normal library hours at (724) 763-3591. I am  available most days between noon and 4 p.m.

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