Evart Reads promoting community involvement, literacy

EVART — Soon, there’s going to be books readily available to readers of all ages throughout the city of Evart.

Evart Reads, a program to expand literacy in the community, is underway and helping spearhead the effort is Jenny Rounds, Mecosta Osceola Intermediate School District early literacy coordinator.

Reads said the program is partnership between the Mecosta-Osceola Intermediate School District, Evart Public Schools and the City of Evart with the goal of expanding literacy by having books readily available to everyone in the community.

Rounds said the program began during meetings with the City of Evart about Rising Tide, a pilot program from Gov. Rick Snyder to work with local leaders as they develop new strategies for economic prosperity, creating more and better jobs.

“Elementary school principal Sarah Bailey was looking to have more community involvement, and the ISD saw the need of that support to get it going,” she said. “The ability to read affects other subjects in school and determines the path they are able to take in life and it ripples out to the community.

“When there is a literacy challenge, that affects us negatively, that’s when we come alongside our struggling readers and show them that the community cares. That’s going to have an affect on those students, their peers and the entire community.”

With that in mind, Rounds said the school began having volunteers come in to the elementary school to mentor students one-on-one who are struggling, providing them a little help.

“It’s really popular among the students,” she said. “Everyone wants a reading superhero. The volunteers are trained and equipped to help the students.”

Another portion of the program has brought community members inside the classroom to read to students.

“A couple Fridays a month, they come in and share a book from their childhood or something about what they do so the students can see the real life someone who enjoys reading and wants to share that,” she said.

Another facet of Evart Reads is participation in the Dolly Parton Imagination Library, a national organization which sends a free book each month to any child from birth to age 5. There also is a grant Bailey obtained for 5,000 books, which will be placed at businesses and other locations around the community for elementary-level students to take home with them.

The final piece of the puzzle involved little libraries. The premise is small book exchanges located throughout the community for children and adults to use, Rounds said.

“I worked with Downtown Development Authority President Al Weinberg and Department of Public Works Director Mark Wilson to find the most strategic spots to make sure they were accessible to kids and families, or people who wouldn’t normally find themselves reading,” she said.

To hold the books, the Evart industrial arts program at the high and middle schools, are building the little libraries, she said.

“The idea is anyone of all ages can get books from them at a variety of places,” Rounds said. “Getting the community involved, businesses are sponsoring those for two years and volunteers are stewarding those and keeping an eye on them.

“We hope it will spur others to make the decision to have a little library.”

While the program continues to grow, Rounds said there will be some tweaking needed as they move forward.

“Everything seems to be going smoothly, and we’re finding the best way to do things,” she said.

Rounds added they are looking for more reading superhero volunteers to mentor children, community members to read to classes and more books.

“You can never have enough,” she said of all three.