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Harding, McKinley Students Bring Joy of Storytelling to Community

Forty proud third-grade students from the A-OK! after-school programs at Harding and McKinley elementary schools have recently been named Reading Ambassadors by the Santa Barbara Public Library System.

Children learned and practiced storytelling skills and were encouraged to read stories to their families, friends and neighbors. Many of these students had never visited a public library.

The third-graders participated in a three-week storytelling training provided by public library staff, learning how to talk about the story and illustrations, read with expression and retell stories using art or drama. The third-graders practiced their new skills with first-grade partners.

As part of their final training session, each third-grade group visited the Central Library for a special tour and graduation ceremony. A Children’s Accessible Transportation (CAT) grant awarded to EasyLift made transportation possible. Transportation is one of the biggest obstacles in preventing children from visiting the public library.

Santa Barbara City Councilwoman Cathy Murillo, Santa Barbara Unified School District after-school program director Debi Badger and library services manager Scott Love were among the special guests to congratulate each new Reading Ambassador. Students signed a promise to share the fun of storytelling with their community and received a certificate and a Reading Ambassador button.

“They had so much fun!” an A-OK chaperone said.

As part of the Reading Ambassador program, each child was also given a book to read to another child; 90 percent of the children agreed that being a Reading Ambassador motivated them to read more often, and two-thirds of participants reported they read with another child outside of the program.

Parents were also surveyed about their child’s reading habits. One parent told library staff, “My daughter reads the story in English, then translates it into Spanish so that her little brother and I can understand. We’ve been sharing books as a family.”

In many low-income households. parents work more than one job and don’t have time to read with their children. The Reading Ambassador Program was launched to implement the Public Library’s National Leadership grant from the U.S. Institute of Museum and Library Services. This grant is part of a wider library initiative to promote grade-level reading skills by age 8. By teaching older siblings to read with younger neighbors, siblings and friends, the younger children learn essential early literacy skills. This program was also supported by the Junior League of Santa Barbara.

Click here for more information about programs and services of the Santa Barbara Public Library System. 

— Lisa Gonzalez represents the Santa Barbara Central Library.

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