Since its inception last fall, Weatherford ISD Education Foundation’s Heather’s Books program has provided 727 books for 175 pre-kindergarten students.
The program gives $20 per pre-kindergarten student to use as vouchers to purchase books at their school’s spring and fall book fairs.
The program was launched in memory of Ikard Elementary School teacher Heather Holland who died last year from flu complications.
“She was very loved by everybody, kids and teachers,” Ikard Elementary Counselor Jeri Landgraf said. “She was a great teacher. We miss her terribly.”
The program continues Holland’s vision to spread a love of reading in kids, WISD Executive Director of Organizational Culture Charlotte LaGrone said. Students could buy a book and get one free during the last spring book fair at all pre-kindergarten campuses so students were able to go home with twice as many books.
“For many of these students, purchasing a book in their school book fair simply wasn’t an option,” LaGrone said. “Not only did we remove a financial barrier, we provided many students their very first books to own.”
The first year of the program cost the foundation $3,243, LaGrone said.
The program focuses on the youngest students because it’s important to read to children starting at an early age, LaGrone said.
“Children introduced to reading early on tend to read earlier and excel in school compared to children who are not exposed to language and books at a young age,” LaGrone said. “The National Institute for Literacy estimates that one out of every five children in the U.S. will experience a reading or writing problem at some point during their school years.”
Reading is a basic skill that lays the foundation in other school subjects and is necessary to real world tasks, Landgraf said.
“I would think it would certainly build fluency, comprehension, it would build all the areas of reading plus, even more basic than that, it builds an excitement about books in the kids,” Landgraf said. “Some of those younger kids haven’t had a lot of access to books before coming to school, so having their very own to take with them is a really big deal for a lot of them.”
LaGrone said the foundation expects that more pre-kindergarten students will have the opportunity to receive books because of the full day pre-kindergarten program that starts in the fall.
WISD Foundation President Dave Cowley said he is thrilled about this expansion.
“Any time you can get a kid to pick up on book, and the younger the better, they’re going to start reading everything that they get their hands on,” Cowley said.