For young readers, a bounty of books

05/07/2012 11:01 PM

05/16/2014 6:28 PM

The children’s books have to be hardbound — all 10,000 of them.

A New York publishing house’s gift to Kansas City’s communitywide reading campaign is meant to last.

Before schools let out for summer, every second- and third-grader in four Kansas City school districts will take home two books that will be all theirs.

Roger Rosen of Rosen Publishing Inc. imagines the books taking their place on shelves in homes where books may have been scarce or hard to come by.

He imagines children reading them, and passing them on.

Kansas City Mayor Sly James, who was part of an entourage of civic and educational leaders accepting the gift Monday, sees a perfect blend with the Turn the Page KC childhood reading campaign that he calls his highest priority.

“This does exactly what we want,” James said.

The program, which aims to see every child reading at grade level by the third grade, is heading into its first summer. That’s the time of year when much of the progress children make in school is lost.

The slide, multiple researchers have determined, hits more heavily in low-income households where children too often do not get enough opportunity to carry on reading.

“We’ve been concerned about equity of access,” Rosen said.

Rosen Publishing made its first donation of books to young readers a year ago in Buffalo, N.Y. This year, the company wanted to look into the Heartland and found its partnership in Kansas City.

State Rep. Jason Holsman, who represents south Kansas City, connected Rosen to Kansas City’s Turn the Page KC effort.

Kansas City Public Schools and the Center, Hickman Mills and Grandview school districts all will be receiving the books, which will be distributed by the Local Investment Commission.

The fact that Kansas City had organizations already collaborating on a summer reading campaign made the fit easy when Rosen Publishing was looking for its next partner city, Rosen said.

The Kansas City and the Mid-Continent public library systems are expanding the “Community of Readers” initiative to inspire more families to read together.

The summer school programming by the Upper Room through area churches will be increasing its work to put volunteer tutors together with child readers.

“We want to tie these programs together,” said Kansas City Public Library Director Crosby Kemper III. “We’re going to start following the kids through (state test scores)” to measure what’s working best.

Everyone wants the school districts to succeed, Holsman said, and building early childhood reading skills will be essential.

And when those sleek, hardbound books pass into a child’s hands, he said, the child’s going to know “that someone cares for them.”

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