Program helps boost reading

FAIRMONT – Martin County’s first “Literacy That Lasts a Lifetime: Families Reading Together” program is being deemed a success.

The program offered incentives for children from birth to 5 years old to read or be read to, with a goal of 50 books from September through April. The program was completed Tuesday with higher-than-expected participation.

“We had 312 children signed up, and so far about half of those who signed up completed it,” said Martin County Library director Jenny Trushenski. “It exceeded our expectations, because we expected we’d have about 200 sign up. We’ll be getting numbers in from all the branches here soon.”

One area that most impressed her was the participation of families with infants and toddlers.

“It was good to see them reading to their children,” she said.

Trushenski also believes that the incentives – four books children received, plus a T-shirt upon completion – helped drive interest. The books, along with performers for the kickoff and end of the program, were covered by grants obtained in cooperation with Community Education and Recreation.

Parents were required to keep a log of books their children read or had read to them, and children earned extra books to keep as they completed the program.

Participants were asked to take a brief pre-test and post-test to help track children’s reading and language development.

Numerous studies have shown that children who are exposed to early literacy are better prepared to start school.

“It was obviously a good program and there was a need and desire for it,” Trushenski said.

The program was funded by Southern Minnesota Initiative Foundation, Martin County Library, Fairmont Community Education and Recreation and the Fairmont Early Childhood Initiative.

The events also were made possible by a grant provided by the Traverse des Sioux Library System, and was funded in part with money from Minnesota’s Art and Cultural Heritage Fund.