A new organization hopes to rekindle children’s interest in reading, starting with Dawson County’s youngest residents.
Wee Books Program received approval last week from the Ferst Foundation for Childhood Literacy to sponsor a children’s book program for local families.
Beginning in March, the group will distribute age-appropriate, hardback books monthly to children up to age 5.
The free program is made possible through the Ferst Foundation, a children’s literacy group that provides books for local communities to prepare Georgia preschool children for success in reading and learning.
Reading Education Association of Dawson County, or READ, oversaw the program until December, when a lack of funding forced the group to suspend activities.
Since its inception in January 2007, the local program has delivered 9,948 books to more than 500 Dawson County children at a cost of $36 per child.
The reading habits of children is a nationwide issue.
According to the National Center for Education Statistics, 43 percent of fourth-graders nationwide read for fun on a daily basis. For eighth-graders, that figure drops to 19 percent,
Wee Books Program emerged after a group of volunteers agreed the program must continue despite the struggling economy.
“We have assembled a dynamic group of folks who are eager to see this program continue in Dawson County,” said Marge Carey, president of Wee Books Program. “This is a program that our citizens, our civic clubs and our businesses have been generously supporting.”
The program is supported by private and corporate donations, and will continue to receive funding from READ, according to its president, Carol Tyger.
Carey, a retired elementary school teacher, told READ’s board on Jan. 21 that Wee Books’ goal is to “get books into the hands of preschoolers, to instill a love of books and reading, and to prepare him or her for school.”
Kam Smith credits the program for getting her daughter, Blake, ready for kindergarten in the fall.
“I can go out and buy her books at the store, but there is something super special for her when she can go to the mailbox and get a book that’s addressed to her,” she said. “She gets so exited and wants me to read it to her immediately.”
Over the last year, Smith said her daughter has learned to sound out and recognize many small words.
E-mail Michele Hester at email@example.com.