Reading and Feeding

Amanda Hopper has worked with the Youth Services Department at BCPL for five years and is currently the YS Coordinator.  Amanda lives in Union with her husband and two daughters.  She is passionate about serving the children and families of Boone County.  

 Choosing a topic for my blog post was easy. Not too long ago, I was conducting an orientation for a new staff member and as part of it, I told her about our partnership with the schools to provide lunches for kids during the summer.  She was surprised to hear about this outreach program and asked, “How have I never heard about this?”  I realized then that we spend a lot of time talking about what is happening inside our buildings, but not so much time talking about the services and projects we do outside our walls. This blog gives us an opportunity to tell you about some of our outreach projects that you’ve probably never heard about.

The idea for the Summer Read and Feed program first came up two years ago at a meeting of representatives from local organizations to address homelessness in Boone County.  We talked about how children who get free or reduced school lunches often go hungry during the summer months. Boone County School System had a summer food service program in place, but it was sometimes difficult for children to get to the school to be fed.  The Library had an outreach vehicle and a summer reading program, but no food.  It was obvious that by partnering, we could take the food to where the kids were and provide literacy activities at the same time. We decided to use the parking lot of the Beiderman Educational Center as our off-site location because it was within walking distance of a large number of hotels with these local students.  The Library’s outreach vehicle (Community Center on Wheels) transported food and staff to the parking lot and children were able to enjoy free food, free books, book discussions, and fun activities at each weekly Book Bash.  We also fed children, up to age 18, at a second site – the Florence Branch of the Library. This library is located in the heart of Florence and within walking distance from many families in need.

During our first Summer Read and Feed program in 2011, meals were only provided to children under age 18. We felt that if we offered food for the entire family, more people would attend and we could encourage family interaction during literacy activities. So, we decided to change that for the next year. Library staff began looking for literacy-based grants to take summer reading activities to underserved and at-risk populations in our county. For the summer of 2012, the Library was able to secure two such grants.

We received a $2000 Target Family Literacy Foundation Grant to help fund the 2012 eight-week Family Book Bash project in the Beiderman Educational Center parking lot.  Boone County Schools provided free lunches to all children under 18 and the Library provided books, developmentally appropriate activities and meals for the adults who accompanied the children. The collaborative activities fostered an environment conducive to reading enjoyment for both children and adults. An average of 40 children and 20 adults participated each week.

Using a $5000 Library Services Technology Act Summer Reading Summer Food Services Program Grant and some of the funds from the Target Family Literacy Foundation Grant we were able to continue the work begun the previous summer targeting the at-risk population in the Florence area near the Library. The SRSFS grant provided staffing, supplies, literacy-based games, and recreational activities and the Target grant provided free books, incentives and free meals for the adults who accompanied children to the community outreach events.  Boone County Schools provided the free meals for the children, under the age of 18, who attended.  1,389 children were fed at the 42 meal programs held in June and July.

Through the external funding we received and our partnership with Boone County Schools, we were able to expand our Summer Read and Feed program in 2012 to address the nutritional and literacy needs of both children and their parents.  We are already hard at work looking for grants for summer of 2013!

–Amanda