In the 2013 legislative session, the Colorado Legislature included an appropriation of $2 million in the state's budget to fund the State Grants to Libraries Act. The funds will be available to eligible publicly funded school, public and academic libraries to fund grants for library materials as defined in the statute (see CRS 24-90-401). The purpose of the funds, as designated by the Joint Budget Committee, is for educational materials in libraries that support or enhance opportunities for early literacy and early learning.
In Elbert County, this means that we will see close to $20,000 coming in to our county. All five school districts — Agate, Big Sandy, Elbert, Elizabeth and Kiowa — will receive the minimum distribution of $3,000 each, while the public library will receive closer to $5,500.
I have been very excited to learn about this additional money coming into our county since the budget was finalized at the end of the last legislative session. During a time when all of us have had to make reductions to our materials purchases for libraries, this additional funding is most welcome. At Elbert County Library District, it means close to an 8 percent increase in our budget for books and other library materials. District staff plan to spend the money on additional educational videos and easy reader and chapter books, which are popular parts of our collections.
For the Agate school district, serving less than 50 students total in kindergarten through fifth grade, it means being able to purchase 10 times the number of materials that they did this past school year. I spoke with Agate Superintendent Kendra Ewing, and she said that the students enjoy their library and use it frequently, but that she has not been able to add books to the collection in recent years due to funding constraints.
Early literacy and early childhood education are a cornerstone of our libraries throughout Elbert County. Many studies and reports indicate that reading readiness — pre-literacy skills gained before a child enters kindergarten — and third-grade reading scores are two of the best indicators of a student's success throughout school.
Along with materials to support early literacy, we host several programs at our libraries. We host weekly story times in Elizabeth, Kiowa, and Simla. This fall we launched 1000 Books Before Kindergarten, a program that encourages parents to read to their children to help increase learning preparedness. At the Elizabeth Library, Wonderful Wednesdays feature a different topic on the first Wednesday of each month, with a display and books related to each theme.
The paperwork to receive the money has been filed, and libraries can purchase materials between now and June 2014. Visit your local library, encourage your child to check out an extra book from school — we are pleased to be able to put more resources in the hands of our youth!
Kari May lives in Elizabeth and is the director of the Elbert County Library District. She can be contacted through the library at firstname.lastname@example.org. Visit the library at www.elbertcountylibrary.org.