Staff members at the Alameda Free Library are busy doing much more than reshelving books. They're creating and maintaining outreach programs designed to promote one central message, summed up by Jordana Elderts of the library's adult literacy program, Alameda Reads:

"There's so much fun that can happen at the library. It's not just sitting down and reading quietly." Family Fun Day, a chance for families with small children to have fun and learn about library services, will be held Saturday at the Main Library. It is the culminating event of this year's preschool reading program which aims to help some of Alameda's youngest citizens develop a love of reading.

Two years ago, Alameda Reads joined forces with the library's Children's Services to apply for a state grant from Early Learning with Families to create positive reading experiences for children from infants to age 5. The library wanted to address the issue that children who don't read often have a lower literacy level, which can limit their potential socio-economic success as adults.

They qualified for $5,000, which got the program started with story times held mostly in the library. This year, the final year of grant funding, they used the $25,000 to bring the program to 19 Head Start preschools a month, each serving low-income children who might not be read to anywhere else.


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Beginning in January, a specially hired library worker visited the preschools each month with a crate of library books purchased for the program. A puppet helped read stories and sing songs with the children. The crate of books was left for the children to enjoy until it was rotated the next month with a new crate.

The program's facilitators hope the positive experiences with books and reading will help the children embrace reading and learning in general.

"What we'd like to do is focus some attention on family literacy and the idea that reading should be a family activity," said Eva Volin, the supervising children's librarian. "(A recent) Census tells us that only 42 percent of Alameda's adult population has graduated from college and that over 8 percent live below the poverty line.

"Through programs like Head Start and other early childhood education centers, at-risk kids are getting a leg up on entering school ready to learn," Volin said. "But that readiness training can't only be done in the preschools. Without follow-through from the parents and guardians, at-risk kids will stay at-risk."

That's where events like Family Fun Day come in, says Volin. "We need the entire family to be reading. We're trying to bring together the whole family."

There will be a parenting workshop on media-savvy kids, a puppet show that will amuse adults as well as children, continuous story times and craft projects such as book making, origami and pirate activities. There also will be a food and fitness activity to promote healthy eating and physical activity. Those who complete a survey will receive a free children's book, while supplies last.

The free event is open to everyone, but is focused on families with young children.

Although the preschool reading program is over for the summer, the library will continue to offer programs for all ages. Each month features a new continuing education event or program. Alameda Reads offers a flexible schedule of free adult tutoring for reading and writing English. This summer's reading programs will include an incentive program for adults as well as the youth program. Kids, teens and adults can earn raffle tickets toward prizes. The reading programs go from June 14 to Aug. 9.

The preschool reading program will continue this fall, but there will be no grant money. The library staff will continue to serve the children of low-income families by expanding the responsibilities of their own staff and relying on volunteers to help read to the children. Time commitment is only two hours once or twice a month. The grant money received this year allowed them to assemble 25 crates of books with 10 to 12 books in each crate. The staff hopes to raise $5,000-$10,000 each year to keep the program going.

IF YOU GO
WHAT: Family Fun Day
WHEN: Saturday, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.
WHERE: Main Library, 1550 Oak St.
MORE INFORMATION: www.ci.alameda.ca.us/library or call 747-7777
TO VOLUNTEER: Call 747-7705
TO HELP: Donate a book, contact Books Inc, 1344 Park St., call 522-2226