Access to reading materials and building home libraries has long been a challenge for many families in our community. The lack of financial means, transportation and awareness are all factors, as are language barriers. Data shows a direct correlation to early reading and school readiness. Data also shows a direct correlation to consistent reading with school success. Children with access to fewer books and other reading materials perform lower on reading scores and standardized tests and this follows them throughout their school years and life.
Creating a love of reading in every child is the mission of ReadOKC. Led by the Foundation for OKCPS, ReadOKC is an initiative of the OKC Compact, made up of OKCPS, the Foundation for OKCPS, City of OKC, Greater OKC Chamber and United Way of Central Oklahoma. ReadOKC focuses in three key areas: Reading Challenges that promote reading 20 minutes per day, Reading Buddies that place caring adults with students to read and mentor, and Access to Reading to ensure all students have reading materials readily available.
Within the access focus, ReadOKC has placed Free Little Libraries outside all but eight OKCPS schools, as well as Scissortail Park. The Little Libraries are a “take a book, leave a book” model, but also have volunteer stewards who make sure there is always a good supply of books. These libraries provide access to books any time of day and are located in neighborhoods where families reside.
The second major venture to provide access is coming soon with ReadOKC On the Go, set to launch in early June. ReadOKC On the Go is using two ADA compliant school buses provided by OKCPS. The buses are being retrofitted into bookmobiles and will be filled with books for pre-k-12th graders. Each student visiting the bus will have the chance to select a book of their very own to build their own home library. The colorful, fun and engaging buses will travel throughout the district, visiting schools and other venues where children gather.
Maintaining a large supply of books will require ongoing funding from community partners and there are also many volunteer opportunities available. Developing a culture of reading in our community takes intentional and focused effort, and ReadOKC is just that. The immediate and long term benefits for our children are well worth the effort.