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Linda Mah
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Library Cards Excite First Graders

KPS Continues Collaboration with Kalamazoo Public Library

There was the buzz of excitement in the air.

The first graders from Woods Lake Elementary: A Magnet Center for the Arts, were on a field trip to the Kalamazoo Public Library in October. Two exciting things were happening.

The first: The students were getting their own library cards.

The second: They were checking out books on their cards.

For five years, all of the first graders in Kalamazoo Public Schools have been taking field trips to the Kalamazoo Public Library branches, where the students receive their first library cards, learn about libraries, check out books and, hopefully, strengthen their interest in reading.

KPL Youth Services Director Susan Warner said it was at a meeting with KPS Superintendent Dr. Michael F. Rice that she brought up the idea of the program, which she’d seen at other libraries.

“First grade seems to be an ideal time to reach kids who might not have been library visitors as preschoolers,” Warner said. “Preschool is such an important time, but we miss a lot of kids. By the time they’re in school, there’s the kindergarten craziness where they’re still learning how to do school.

“By first grade, they know how to do school, and they are starting to read independently. It’s an ideal time to grab them.”

It also allows the library to work with students during that critical time between first and third grade when schools focus on helping students build a strong foundation of reading skills.

The first-grade library program consists of three library visits. The first two are to library branches that would be considered the students’ neighborhood library. On the first visit they learn how to check out books and during the second visit they learn how to return books. For the third visit, all 17 elementary schools visit the Central Library, where they have a tour of the library.

The children receive library cards, which are kept at their schools — as are the library books. At the end of the school year, the cards go home with children with a note that the cards are active through August of that year. Parents are encouraged to come in with their children and to register for a regular card.

The effort ties into two other KPS-KPL collaborations, Warner said. The First Saturday program offers special programming, with book giveaways and family activities at the Central Library from 2 to 3:30 pm. on the first Saturday of every month.

Also, library programs sometimes serve as make-up sessions for the school district’s Lift Up Through Literacy program, a free program for children, parents and caregivers which teaches parents how to help their children become better readers. The program is open to all families, with children from infants to teenagers.

Warner offers these tips for parents who want to make the most out of their library visits:

• Get your child a library card — and then visit the library.

• Let them choose some of their own books. Letting them have a say in what they read is important. You can always choose some and sneak in the classics.

• Share the books when you get home.

• Remember the great thing about the library: If you don’t like a book you don’t have to read it. You can return it and never be bothered by it again.

• Ask for suggestions. Librarians enjoy telling you about books they love and they love to hear what books you’ve enjoyed.

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