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RSVP offers free books to Kossuth County first-graders

ALGONA — Reading is the key to learning, yet many children do not have access to the right books at the right time to foster a love of reading.

Northwest Iowa RSVP offers a Literacy Partners program that helps address the issue by providing free books to first-graders.

Research indicates that book ownership and books in the household are good indicators of future success in school. Furthermore, studies of individual families show that what they do to support literacy in the home is more critical to student success than family income or education.

Research shows that:

∫ Children who read are the best spellers, writers, thinkers, and students.

∫ Reading to children is of great benefit to language development and literacy.

∫ The mere presence of books in the home profoundly impacts a child’s academic achievement.

The Algona Noon Kiwanis and the Kossuth County Community Foundation partnered with Northwest Iowa RSVP to launch Literacy Partners for Kossuth County first-graders this fall with the first distribution of books in September. The RSVP Literacy Partners program originated in Clay County and was established in Dickinson County, beginning in fall 2019.

The newly launched Kossuth County Literacy Partners will reach all Kossuth County Schools, including Algona Community Schools, Lu Verne Elementary, North Union Elementary in Fenton, and Seton Elementary. Each first-grader will choose a book from various non-fiction and fiction titles and reading levels and take their books home to add to, or start, their own library. Each student will receive two Scholastic books during the 2020-2021 academic year to help instill a love of reading.

RSVP volunteers order, sort and deliver the books to the schools. The volunteers oversee the distribution by displaying the books, assisting students in selecting and writing their names in the book and then reading the books with students.

Due to the pandemic, volunteers are currently not permitted into school buildings, so RSVP and school personnel adapted creative and safe ways to provide the books. For instance, North Union first-grade teacher, Mrs. Brandt, organized a Book Day in their classroom, while Seton first-grade students received their books when RSVP and Kirk Hayes, Algona Noon Kiwanis, set up a table outside during recess.

Since volunteers cannot deliver books and read in person, due to the pandemic, RSVP volunteers are recording themselves reading books from the available selections to promote a love of reading to students. Volunteer readers are recorded in area parks, backyards, decks, and homes and show their creative colors in reading with enthusiasm and sometimes with costumes and props.

For the RSVP Literacy Partners program, each book’s cost is approximately $3, funded entirely by local donations. RSVP does not receive any state or federal dollars to assist with the program. Cash donations from service clubs, parent groups, local organizations, and individuals fund the entire project. RSVP purchases books directly from Scholastic Books and uses all Literacy Partners funds exclusively to purchase books with no funds spent on administration, delivery or shipping. Literacy Partners programs are specific to a county — donations and funding is used exclusively in the county from which the funding comes. If you are interested in donating to the Kossuth County Literacy Partners program, please contact Dawn Bernhard, 515-295-8522, dbernhard@iowalakes.edu.

Iowa Lakes Community College has sponsored Northwest Iowa RSVP since 1977. RSVP provides people 55 and over the opportunity to apply their life experience to meeting community needs as volunteers in Clay, Dickinson, Emmet, Kossuth and Palo Alto counties.

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