A lack of funding has forced a local literacy group to suspend a program that provides free books to children.
Carol Tyger, president of the Reading Education Association of Dawson County, or READ, said the Wee READ program would be discontinued until further notice.
The group, a volunteer, nonprofit organization, supplies free, age-appropriate, hardback books monthly to children up to age 5 through the Ferst Foundation.
“The Wee READ Community Action Team is in stages of redeveloping their team and working through the challenges of budget restraints,” Tyger said. “It may take a few months to build up the coffers, but we look forward to being able to reinstate the program in the very near future.”
More than 500 local children take part in the program at a cost of $36 per child.
There are no income requirements to participate, and the organization is supported by community and corporate donations.
The program’s goal is to “have these books in the hands of all preschool-age children in Dawson County, so that they can have the opportunity to develop not just a love of reading but be ready and able to learn when they first enter school.”
To do that, however, it must come up with additional funding.
In October, the group mailed a letter to potential and former donors, urging sponsorships.
“Most of our contributions come to us from school teachers,” Tyger said. “And we’re very appreciative of all the funds we’ve received.”
Tyger and Lake Gibson, a READ board member, said the group may consider limiting the number of children who receive free books, since there are no income requirements.
Ann Williams, who helped bring the Ferst Foundation’s program to Dawson County, said she believes requiring income documentation violates the premise of providing the books to all children.
“I just don’t want to see the program end,” Williams said. “Dawson County residents are giving money to READ right now for the program, and there has been no public notice given to the families who participate or the current donors who have funded Wee READ so willingly.”
Tyger said she has met with the Ferst Foundation, which distributes the books, and discussed suspending the program. The foundation plans to announce the program’s suspension in a letter accompanying the next book orders.
“All the different nonprofit organizations are scrambling for dollars right now,” said Tyger, who added the group hopes to be able to reinstate the free book program as soon as possible.
E-mail Michele Hester at firstname.lastname@example.org.