A children's librarian talks to a room filled with engaged third graders

The Bookleggers program concludes each school year with a field trip to BPL for all third grade classes during which time students have their final book talk, get a tour, and check out books with their very own (in most cases their first) library card.

Spreading the joy of reading is an endeavor that can have a profound impact on individuals, communities, and society as a whole. Reading has been shown to have numerous benefits, including improving cognitive function, reducing stress, increasing empathy, and expanding knowledge and understanding of the world. However, not everyone has equal access to books or the opportunity to develop a love of reading. That’s where your financial gifts can have an impact. Below are three programs that need additional funding to spread the joy of reading. The first two programs focus on younger readers — specifically 3rd, 4th, and 5th graders — and the last program is for older individuals combining reading and discussion.

As we know, the city has been struggling with low reading scores for some time. According to the National Assessment of Educational Progress, only 28% of Beloit’s 4th graders were reading at or above proficiency level in 2019. This is a cause for concern as reading proficiency is a key indicator of academic success and future job prospects.

A pile of dated books on top of a backpack

Many of the Bookleggers titles are dated and in need of replacement.

One approach to raising reading scores is to increase access to high-quality, early-childhood education programs that can help children develop the joy of reading, further increasing their foundational skills they need to succeed in reading and other academic areas.

BOOKLEGGERS is a Beloit Public Library program that partners with area schools — public, charter, and private — to increase learning opportunities for 3rd grade students and their families. Trained volunteers visit area classrooms each month, delivering backpacks filled with books representing a variety of interests and reading levels. The volunteer spends time describing the books for the month. This program has been around since 1994. Many of the titles in the backpacks also have been around since 1994.

This is where your donation dollars can help the library keep this program fresh and new. To keep children engaged in reading, at the end of the school year, the library buses every 3rd grade classroom to the library for a field trip, during which time students get tours of the library and receive their very first library cards, if they don’t yet have one. Then they can continue exploring their love for reading.

Four girls hold hands with a "ready" sign as they wait to hear the answer to a quiz question

The grand finale of the BookQuest program is an exciting battle-of-the-books-style competition between teams of fourth and fifth graders.

BOOKQUEST, featured in The Foundation’s last newsletter, highlighted that 200 author signed books were given away at the conclusion of the authors’ school visit. It also explains that the 200 books were given away in a lottery drawing because 1,000 4th and 5th graders participated in the authors’ visit. Your donation dollars will help us purchase more books to be given away during this event.

Our goal is that every 4th and 5th grader receive an author-signed book. After the authors from Where We Come From visited the local schools, the schools’ libraries had long waiting lists of kids waiting to check out Where We Come From. Children have short attention spans; our goal with giving signed copies of the featured book is to capture their love for reading during the author visit. Our hopes are that the child goes home, talks about the author visit with their family, and shows off the book. This sparks the family reading the book together.

There are many ways to spread the joy of reading. One of the most effective ways is simply by sharing your own love of reading with others. The library features a monthly book discussion group which is growing in popularity. Each month participants read a new book, then bond over a discussion of that book. The library has financial constraints that limits the number of books available to this book club. Your gift will help fund additional books for the 4TH WEDNESDAY BOOK DISCUSSION GROUP.

Adults sit in chairs that form a circle while talking

The 4th Wednesday Book Discussion provides an opportunity for community members to connect with others through a love of reading and exchanging of ideas.

In conclusion, I would like to emphasize the importance of these three key programs — BookQuest, Bookleggers, and 4th Wednesday Book Discussion Group ­— and the positive impact they have on our community. While the City of Beloit provides essential funding for Beloit Public Library, it is important to note that these funds cover only the basic operational needs. The Foundation uses donation dollars to fund such initiatives as these to provide opportunities for children and adults to engage with literature, foster a sense of belonging, and cultivate a lifelong love for reading. By investing in these programs, you are investing in the intellectual and personal growth of individuals from all walks of life. Your support will enable us to expand our reach, enhance the resources available, and create an environment where imaginations can soar and knowledge can thrive. We kindly request your contribution to ensure the continuity and growth of these invaluable programs. Together, we can make a lasting difference in the lives of our community members and pave the way for a brighter future. Thank you for your thoughtful consideration.

Yours truly,

Lisa Ingalls, Executive Director
Beloit Public Library Foundation

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