So my garden is taking all the time (and water) I can give it this week. It suffered (and literally wilted from lack of rain) from my absence at the end of June so I could visit family in Wisconsin and Minnesota. My hometown has grown quite a bit since I left in 1985 (the population has more than tripled). I was amazed at the expansion of the public library on First Street in Hudson, WI., when I drove by. The library was where I went as often as I could in the summer because we had no air conditioning at our house. Of course, I read the books too, thanks to wonderful librarians who literally took me under their care.
Unfortunately, lots of libraries are feeling financial strains and are closing early. Here’s a link an article about Mayor Mike Bloomberg’s budget cuts in New York City. A lot of advocacy paid off and $36 million was restored in New York City. Across the state, there are many little cuts that are shortchanging library patrons. (Back in my hometown, the Friends of the Hudson Library commit to raising a minimum of $15,000 each year as well as provide additional support.)
I have been thinking about how often our local unions are stepping up to help out public institutions. Here’s an article from today’s Daily Freeman from Kingston about a fantastic program from the Kingston teachers union. It’s a great idea, and yet another example of the great work public employees do to pick up the slack when public funding dries up. Here’s the article written by Kyle Wind:
KINGSTON, N.Y. — The Kingston Teachers’ Federation has bought more than 800 books for district students in grades kindergarten through five to encourage them to read over the summer and learn to love books, according to union President Laurie Naccarato.
The initiative, in collaboration with the Kingston school district, is called “Kingston Reads All Summer.”
Citing work from Richard Allington, an academic researcher at the University of Tennessee, Kingston special education teacher Bonnie Van Kleeck said academic ground lost over the summer accounts for 80 percent of the reading achievement gap between economically disadvantaged students and their more affluent peers by the time they reach high school.
Van Kleeck, the second vice president of the teachers’ union, said she sees some students take until October to get back to their pre-summer vacation reading level.
In a district whose 2011-12 free and reduced-price lunch population was 49.1 percent, Naccarato said not all students can afford to buy books or have regular access to a library over the summer. Currently, to qualify for free lunch in the Kingston school district, a household’s maximum annual income cannot exceed $29,965.
Teachers hope the books help youngsters start or grow their own personal libraries and that the initiative can begin to change the school district culture to one that embraces reading all year.
All K-5 students were eligible to receive two books through the “Kingston Reads All Summer” program, Naccarato said, and teachers selected both fiction and non-fiction titles because research shows reading non-fiction is important for academic development.
Among the books that were available to the students were those in the “Goosebumps” series, by R.L. Stine; “Anansi the Spider,” by Gerald McDermott; “Corduroy,” by Don Freeman; “Junie B. Jones,” by Barbara Park and Denise Brunkus; “Magic Tree House,” by Mary Pope Osborne; “Judy Blume,” by Beverly Cleary; “The Trumpet of the Swan,” by E.B. White; and “Amazing Snakes,” by the Wildlife Conservation Society.
On July 31, teachers, teaching assistants and retired educators will volunteer at each elementary school in the Kingston district from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. to provide follow-up activities, and students can swap books if they want. (Students who attended the now-closed Frank L. Meagher Elementary School in 2011-12 should go that day to John F. Kennedy Elementary School, which they will attend in the fall.)
“Our goal is to ensure that our students are lifelong learners and that reading is a part of their lives, even when school is out for the summer,” Van Kleeck said.
A grant secured by state Sen. William Larkin, R-Cornwall, may allow the organizers of the book program to do more this summer.