Reading rewards

Books plant seeds of ag literacy

LAKE CITY — The things a child needs to flourish are basic but non-negotiable. Food. Shelter. Love. The gift of reading.

Just ask Janelle Nesbitt, who brought her 15-month old grandson, Ace Magnani, to the Lake City Public Library for story time recently.

“Ace loves books about tractors and farm equipment,” said Nesbitt, whose grandson smiled and babbled as he stretched forward to touch the farm books on display in the children’s section.

Children who visit the Lake City Public Library now have more ag books to choose from, thanks to a $500 donation from Farm Credit Services of America.

“Agriculture is such an important part of our lives,” said Maria Blair, a crop insurance officer with FCSA in Carroll. “We want to share the stories of agriculture with everyone.”

The Lake City Public Library used the FCSA donation to purchase nearly 40 new books, including titles like “Farm Tools and Machines,” “Seasons on the Farm,” “Agricultural Drones,” “Cows for Kids,” “How Did That Get in my Lunch Box?”, “Biofuels, From Seed to Plant, Pigs, Corn, Soybeans, Sustainable Agriculture,” and more.

“Anytime we can add new books, I love it,” said Michele Deluhery, library director. “It was wonderful to receive this donation.”

Nurturing young minds fosters lifelong benefits

The new ag books are proving popular among young patrons at the Lake City Public Library, which offers story time activities throughout the year and a summer reading program that’s well attended.

“Even young children can learn and absorb the information in books,” said Nesbitt, who brought her own three children to the local library when they were growing up in Lake City. “Books are a great way to open up whole new worlds for kids.”

This includes the world right around them.

“My two boys live in a farming community but are growing up in town and don’t have a direct connection to farming,” said Allison Streufert, children’s librarian at the Lake City Public Library. “It’s terrific we have these new books to help kids learn about agriculture.”

With Iowa schools’ renewed focus on STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) education, few subjects lend themselves better to STEM than agriculture. Books offer an engaging way to nurture young minds, whether children read the books themselves or have someone read to them, Deluhery said.

Children benefit from being read to before they even begin to comprehend language, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. Even in infancy, children whose parents read to them every day develop language skills earlier and bond more closely with their parents than those children whose parents do not embrace reading.

The benefits don’t stop there, said Kim Olson, assistant director of the Lake City Public Library.

“Reading influences a child’s brain development, social skills, self-confidence, concentration, empathy and more. All this helps kids succeed, both now and later in life in their careers,” said Olson.

Growing rural communities

The FCSA office in Carroll not only donated funds for ag books at the Lake City Public Library but also provided $500 donations to libraries in Auburn, Early, Manilla, Churdan and Charter Oak.

“Each year our office receives a set amount of dollars from our Omaha corporate office to put towards community involvement,” said Blair, who noted that the money benefits schools, county fairs and more.

While FCSA’s parameters define community involvement as ag education, hunger and nutrition, young and beginning producers and rural disaster relief efforts (from grain bin rescue kits to volunteer fire departments), the company also receives requests that don’t technically fit into one of these categories.

“We needed to get creative so we could fund additional organizations,” said Blair, a Lake City native. “That’s how our library donations got started.”

She focused on libraries that she knew were updating their book collection or have an active after-school program or children’s reading program. “We put together a short list of books to give the libraries an idea of some ag titles. Then we wrote them a check and asked them to put the money towards ag-related books. They’ve purchased some really interesting titles.”

The Lake City Public Library, for example, added books ranging from The Popcorn Book to Hooray for Farmers! “I’m looking forward to checking out some of the new books for my nieces and nephews,” she said.

Why ag literacy matters

Agriculture is too important to be taught only to students pursuing vocational ag studies and careers in ag, according to the Iowa Agriculture Literacy Foundation (IALF), which notes that:

• An increased knowledge of agriculture and nutrition allows individuals to make informed personal choices about diet and health.

• Agricultural literacy includes an understanding of historical and current economic, social and environmental issues that affect all Americans. This understanding includes being knowledgeable about food and fiber production, processing and domestic and international marketing.

• Informed citizens will be able to participate in establishing the policies that will support a competitive agricultural industry in this country and abroad.

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