We’re building Little Lending Libraries to help kids learn to love reading

One of the three Little Lending Libraries that have been installed so far in Planada. Education leaders would like to have 100 of them up throughout the county soon. But they’re going to need help.
One of the three Little Lending Libraries that have been installed so far in Planada. Education leaders would like to have 100 of them up throughout the county soon. But they’re going to need help.

A child’s capability to read and write is paramount to their success in school and life.

As an educator for nearly four decades, I see firsthand how students who are more literate are more successful in their school work, better prepared and ready to learn. As a parent and grandparent, I believe in the importance of reading to children and instilling the love of reading within them at an early age.

A troubling statistic is that one in four children in America grow up without learning how to read. That’s right – 25 percent of children grow up without the ability to read adequately. Studies have shown that poverty rates and illiteracy rates have a direct correlation.

Research during the past few decades has confirmed that students who struggle with schoolwork likely have a deficit in their reading ability. That is, their reading achievement stalls near the third-grade level. These are the students who continue to struggle with school and career success.

Though there are outreach programs that target adult literacy, identifying and supporting remediation for a reading deficit is most effectively addressed at the earliest ages.

We must do more to give young children access to books and other reading materials if they are going to be successful students that grow into successful adults.

That’s why the Merced County Office of Education is working with the Merced County Housing Authority and school districts across the county to ensure students have increased access to books.

The Little Lending Library program aims to provide students localized access to reading materials in regions where children aren’t able to easily access books.

MCOE installed the first of many of these libraries at the Felix Torres Farm Worker Housing Center in Planada in October. These Little Lending Libraries will give students and adults the opportunity to check out a book from one of three age-appropriate library “houses” with reading levels ranging from preschool to adult. When they are finished with one book, they can exchange it for another.

One of the most significant factors influencing a child’s early education success is an introduction to books and the ability to read at home prior to a formal education in a school setting.

These library “houses” are constructed and installed by Merced and Los Banos Valley Community School students as a part of their construction trades class.

This class is meant to expand students’ use of modern construction technology equipment, while providing them with hands-on working experience. While helping literacy efforts in Merced County, these students are also learning real-world skills.

We hope the Little Lending Libraries will do just that and empower students and adults alike with the magic of a good story. By providing families access to books, we can change the culture of our county.

MCOE is looking for support to install more of these Little Lending Libraries throughout the county. Each library costs $100 to construct and our goal is to install about 100 of them countywide. The Merced County Education Foundation is planning outreach efforts aimed at the entire community to get this project off and running.

Let’s work together to foster a love of reading throughout the community and give our children access to books and a pathway to success.

For information on how you can help, contact MCOE Coordinator Matt Edwards at medwards@mcoe.org.

Steve M. Tietjen, Ed.D., is Merced County Superintendent of Schools. He wrote this for The Merced Sun-Star.