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Missouri Kids "Racing to Read" Thanks to Library Grants

PHOTO: Missouri Secretary of State Jason Kander has been popping in at local libraries to read to children as part of the "Racing to Read" program, made possible through grants from his office. Photo courtesy of L. Swinford
PHOTO: Missouri Secretary of State Jason Kander has been popping in at local libraries to read to children as part of the "Racing to Read" program, made possible through grants from his office. Photo courtesy of L. Swinford
July 24, 2014

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – Thousands of Missouri children and their caregivers are kicking their reading skills into high gear this summer, with grants from the state to enrich early literacy programs at local libraries.

Missouri Secretary of State Jason Kander says the "Racing to Read" grants established by his office were designed to expand and strengthen the quality and availability of programs that expose kids from birth to age six to critical pre-reading skills.

"A lot of studies now show that one of the greatest indicators of a child's IQ and vocabulary as they get older is how many words they've actually heard as a very young child," says Kander.

Racing to Read teaches parents and caregivers how to read with young children using five interactive themes, and was based on a highly successful program in Springfield. Twenty-nine public library districts across the state have received a total of $300,000 in federal grants, coordinated by the state.

Kander, who has a 10-month-old child, says becoming a parent has helped him better understand the importance of programs like this, introducing kids to the joy of books and giving parents confidence to guide them.

"Families will be given a book, so that parents can practice the skills that they've learned at the library when they go home," he says, "and an early literacy flip-book as well, to engage in early literacy activities anywhere."

Kander adds participation at Racing to Read programs has been high at libraries statewide, which he hopes will help secure future funding for this and similar literacy programs.

Mona Shand, Public News Service - MO