Give A Child A Book

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Posted at 11:56 AM, Sep 06, 2023

SALT LAKE CITY — It was story time for FOX 13 News anchor Robyn Oguinye, but the storyteller wasn't who you would suspect.

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Help provide books to children with the 'If You Give A Child A Book' campaign

“Two witches, they’re supposed to go to school but they’re in a human town and they missed the bus and nobody knows where the school actually is…,” explained Layla, a Guadalupe School third grader, about one of her favorite books.

She loves to read for the thrills.

“I like where there is a lot of adventure and stuff, like kind of just a normal person’s life but a big plot twist happens,” she said.

Other students are geared toward something they say is more their… speed. Many in the class share their love of soccer through reading.

“We only had three soccer books when I came in," said school librarian Angi Castillo, "and so we’ve gotten a lot of more non-fiction soccer books as well as I’m trying to get fiction ones so they have stories about soccer.”

No matter if students are reading about witches on their brooms like Layla, or turning the pages on a bio of Cristiano Ronaldo, Castillo has her students covered.

“I’ll take into account if they ask me can you get this series or look into this? I’ll do research if I don’t know what it is or if I already know, 'Oh, they’re checking out a lot of dog bucks,' let’s get some more dog books on the shelves,” she said.

The third grade class at Guadalupe says they love library time.

“I can see lots of books, but one thing I don’t like about it is that there’s so many books I like that I just can’t choose," explained Jeilyn.

But having access to books shouldn’t be taken for granted.

According to the National Literacy Trust, a 2019 survey found that one in five children do not have books of their own at home. For Castillo, that fact makes a school’s library experience that much more important.

Guadalupe's library receives many donations which gets books into the hands of young students that otherwise may not get them.

“We’re doing library cards this year so the scanning process will just get easier and not all of them are familiar with a library card system, which means they haven’t gone to a public library as often ... and so this introduces them to books they might not know,” Castillo explained.

She wants every child to be able to build their own at-home library. But until that can happen, Castillo says she and the school library will happily fill in the gaps.

“If you give a child a book, you can take them to places that maybe you won’t physically be able to take them, so I’ve been able to fly in a plane with Amelia Earhart or be a vampire, which really isn’t going to happen, but through all these different books, they can be in different places.”

Castillo's sentiment reflects those of the school's teachers.

“When you’re reading stories to children, it exposes them to the world of words and letters,” said teacher Leslie Reyes. “As we’re reading to them, we actually point to the letters as we’re reading them, so they understand the difference between a picture versus a word and what direction we’re going on. Even though they can’t necessarily read the word, they know where they are and what we’re doing.”

Reyes works with three-year-olds in the school’s Early Learning Center. The center’s director Katrina Herd says the little ones don’t know it, but just being around books gives them a head-start in their literacy journey.

“If you hand a child a book, maybe they flip it upside down, maybe they chew on it a little bit, but that familiarity, that comfort with literature with books with text, that carries on later on in life and you start to associate books are comfortable,” she said.

Herd notes that comfortability with books is the foundation for any path a student may choose in the future.

“I think kids around third or fourth grade they start to identify with, ‘That’s hard for me’ or ‘I’m not good at that’ and when you have always struggled with having access to and then comfort with reading, then you get to third, fourth grade and you’re like, ‘Gosh, that is just too hard’ and you never move past a certain point,” said Herd. “Whereas, if you’re comfortable with it, there’s a level of ‘This is hard, but I can do it and I might be struggling, but I have the ability to overcome this challenge’.”

While schools like Guadalupe have a growing library with the help of community donations, the goal is to get books into homes and encourage parents or guardians to get involved in their child’s reading habits as early as possible.

“If you give a child a book, they learn to explore and to be curious,” said Reyes.

“If you give a child a book, you give them access to their full potential,” says Herd. “Just opening that book with them, pointing to a couple of pictures and then letting them get up and wander on their way. That’s what early literacy is all about. When they’re ready, they’ll sit with you through that whole book.”