Reading helps children develop language skills, stimulates their imaginations, and expands their understanding of the world. It’s an important activity that’s critical to a child’s development.
But access to books is not equal for everyone.
Many youth don’t know how to access reading materials, especially if English is not their first language. And the books children can access are not typically in good shape—they’re outdated versions, have ripped pages, and are falling apart.
Furthermore, books are not always representative of their readers.
Immigrants, refugees, and low-income youth have unique experiences that aren’t often represented in the stories they read.
Because of this lack of relatable reading materials, Sara, a youth literacy instructor, decided Neighborhood House should create its own library—one specifically tailored for the youth they work with. “These books needed to have characters that look like our youth as well as experience similar experiences, and have narratives believable and real,” Sara explained.
After months of planning, the library is open. Youth get a punch card and can check out two books at a time for up to two weeks. For every two books read and returned, kids get a punch on their card. After all punches are filled, they receive a reward and a new card—all designed to encourage reading.
To celebrate the grand opening of the library and further promote reading, the youth program put together an event called Bingo for Books. Kids from Neighborhood House programs and El Rio Vista Recreation Center came to celebrate. The night included bingo with books for prizes, a hot chocolate bar, crafts, and tacos. Teenagers volunteered at the event, helping kids with crafts and bingo.
“The more books our youth have at their fingertips, the more opportunities they will have to grow and enjoy reading. A lot of our youth have witnessed or experienced personal trauma,” Sara explains. “Reading is one healthy and affordable option to escape. Instead of turning to gang violence or substance abuse, youth can pick up a book.”
Sara’s dream is that the library will “be filled to the brim with books. It would make this reading teacher’s heart very happy.” Her goal is to get 50 books donated for 50 kids by the holidays.
If you want to help support the youth library, you can purchase a book online from Red Balloon or you can purchase a book from the checkout at the Eagan or Roseville Barnes and Noble. Neighborhood House will pick up book donations that were made in person or online at their respective stores.