Optimist Club provides first books for local toddlers
(Cola Daily, Columbia) – They’re just learning how to babble and crawl, but children living in Lexington Richland School District Five already are building a home library.
The Optimist Club of St. Andrews-Irmo has provided $3,000 to purchase books for 90 students in the school district’s Ready By Five program, part of the statewide My First Books initiative. Nearly 38 percent of South Carolina children don’t have the literacy skills needed to succeed in kindergarten, said officials with My First Books.
“The donation from the Optimist Club helps us combat these challenges and make sure that more children in our district have access to books,” said Jennifer Felkel, the school district’s coordinator of parenting and social work.
My First Books is part of the nonprofit organization Palmetto Project and a statewide affiliate of Dolly Parton’s award-winning Imagination Library.
Under Lexington-Richland Five’s model, at-risk children are given print books to help them build pre-literacy skills, and district staff work with parents on child development. The Ready by Five program also links families with community activities and screenings to assess children’s development and health.
The Optimist Club’s donation will give more children enrolled in the district’s program the chance to have books of their own.
“The Optimist Club is all about helping youth and the community,” said Stuart Stout, a member of the St. Andrews-Irmo club. “Why are we searching for charities across the state or across the nation when we have problems here at home? This donation is a small way that we can help and show children that the community and local groups like the Optimist Club support them.”
Educators who work closely with the Ready By Five program said the books provide a critical launching pad for a child’s education.
“The children, and even the parents, are genuinely excited when the books arrive and when the Ready By Five teachers visit their homes,” said Donna Carroll, an Irmo High School social worker who works with Ready By Five families. “That’s the kind of excitement about learning and school we want to create. We are all truly vested in making sure all our students succeed.”