For the past few years, the Molina Foundation and Michigan State University Extension have been working to place books in the hands of children living in low-income situations and enhance literacy levels of Michigan’s children. Since 2011, the Molina Foundation has donated and MSU Extension has distributed about 250,000 books to Michigan children.
This past summer, MSU Extension educators and program coordinators received 30,000 new children’s books to give to Michigan children. They handed out the books at community events, elementary school open houses, Project FRESH, outreach programs for children in migrant camps, county fairs, Operation: Military Kids events, summer camps and more, reaching thousands of children with the gift of free books.
This type of program gives children access to age-appropriate books that they otherwise may not have had.
One MSU Extension staff member said, “Many of the individuals who received the books were quite emotional when told the books were theirs to keep and they were free. That had never happened for them before. And more than a few little ones said they never had a storybook before and couldn’t wait to start reading. They obviously had a love for books, just hadn’t had too many opportunities to hold one.”
MSU Extension staff members who provided leadership for this effort include Jodi Schulz, Bay County educator; Jodi Wrzesinski, Bay County 4-H program coordinator; Theresa Silm, Clinton County educator; and Carrie Shrier, Livingston County educator.
The Molina Foundation received a key partner award at Fall Extension Conference this year for its continued work with MSU Extension and dedication to improving literacy in Michigan.
There’s a terrific project that gets kids excited about reading through their natural love of animals. The Horse Tales Literacy Project (formerly the Black Stallion Literacy Foundation) pairs little readers up with horses. The kids read Walter Farley’s Little Black, A Pony to horses at the Michigan State University Horse Teaching and Research Center on Forest Road near the MSU campus.
In addition, the kids visit interactive activity stations where they learn about various horse-related subjects such as horse nutrition, and tack and equipment.
If you’re free Tuesday, May 20 from 8:30 to 11, you can volunteer for an opportunity to be a part of this event. Volunteers will either hold horses as the kids read to them or they will help coordinate the activity stations.
Karen Waite, senior academic specialist in the MSU Department of Animal Science and the Extension Children and Youth Institute, coordinates the Horse Tales Literacy Project at MSU. Karen works closely with farm manager Paula Hitzler and the Friends of the MSU Horse Teaching and Research Center to make the magic happen.
Karen said, “This is a great way to spend part of a day. The young people are very excited about reading to the horses, and for many it is the first time they have ever been on a farm. It is fun for all involved, yet educational as well.”
You can get a good idea of the kids’ reaction to the project by watching this video and this slide show both produced by Agriculture and Natural Resources Communications. They document the time in 2010 when 135 first graders from Discovery Elementary in Williamston took part in the program. Kids from Discovery will be back again this year as they have every year.
If you think this is something you’d like to be a part of, contact Karen at email@example.com. Just a few hours of your day will make a difference in a child’s life.