PORTSMOUTH — Shawnee State University’s Project BEAR will join hundreds of volunteers across the United States to celebrate Global Youth Day with several days full of literacy themed community service including placement of a Little Free Library in Portsmouth, Ohio at Tracy Park on Wednesday, May 11 at 10 a.m.
“Project BEAR stands for Building Emerging and Achieving Readers and the mission is to enhance early literacy instruction for children birth to age five,” said Project BEAR’s Director, Hayley Venturino. “Currently there are 18 Project BEAR members promoting early literacy in various capacities throughout Southeast Ohio.”
Project BEAR is an AmeriCorps funded program based out of SSU. Partnering with EasterSeals of Central and Southeast Ohio, the program works to promote the Ohio Governor’s Imagination Library in seven counties across Southeast Ohio. Through this partnership, there are two Project BEAR members serving Pike, Scioto, Jackson, Gallia, Meigs, Hocking, and Vinton counties, including Michelle Tackett who is coordinating the day’s events.
“This partnership provides an excellent opportunity for Shawnee State University to give back to the community and to continue building language and early literacy skills throughout Appalachia,” said Amanda Hedrick, SSU’s Director of Center for Lifelong Learning. “The early years are critical in building the foundations young children need for success in school and life.”
The location of Tracy Park near the Kiwanis Playground was selected for the Little Free Library placement as a result of Project BEAR’s partnership with the Kiwanis program Cool Kids Read. Cool Kids Read is a literacy initiative made possible by ServeOhio and hosted by the Kiwanis Club of Portsmouth, Project BEAR, and the Portsmouth Public Library. Through the program, Key Club members read books to more than 460 children in 27 second-grade classrooms in six school districts across Scioto County. Each child was also gifted a book.
“Cool Kids Read was so successful that we can’t wait to do it again next year,” said Jay Hash, Kiwanis President. “We are thrilled that Project BEAR is doing even more to promote childhood literacy by encouraging our local children to take a book home to read after they visit our Kiwanis playground in Tracy Park.”
Little Free Library is a nonprofit organization providing 24/7 book access. They are a catalyst for building community, inspiring readers, and expanding book access for all through a global network of volunteer-led Little Free Libraries. The program provides a book for every reader and empowers people with the opportunity to discover a personally relevant book to read is not limited by time, space, or privilege. The Portsmouth and surrounding communities are invited to participate in the initial stocking of the library on Wednesday, May 11 beginning at 10:00 a.m.
As a result of the Governor’s partnership with Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library, over 2,200 Scioto County children ages birth-five years old currently receive free books each month. On May 11, parents who are currently not participating in the program will have a chance to register their children. Once signed up for the program, a child will receive a specially-selected, age-appropriate, high-quality, hardcover book personalized with their name every month until age 5. The books are mailed directly to their home at no cost to the family. The books allow parents and guardians to build their own home library of books at no cost to the family.
Project BEAR believes that literacy is a right for all, and it is the foundation for educational success. The program works with local schools and partners to assist in the building of foundational early literacy skills for children birth-age 5. The AmeriCorps funded program is administered locally by ServeOhio, the state’s Commission on Service & Volunteerism. AmeriCorps, a federal agency, brings people together to tackle the country’s most pressing challenges, through national service and volunteering. ServeOhio was created to empower local communities to mobilize AmeriCorps members and volunteer resources for the purpose of building a stronger Ohio. It works to increase the effective utilization of AmeriCorps members and community volunteers working to address the state’s frontline issues in education, health, and economic opportunity.
To learn more about ongoing Project BEAR initiatives at Shawnee State University, contact Hayley Venturino at (740) 351-3059. Explore more about AmeriCorps at americorps.gov and ServeOhio at www.serveohio.org.