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A ‘friend’ of Lincoln County Library wants children to read early

An advocate for reading at an early age wants to get books in the hands of every child in Lincoln County.

And she needs the community’s help to do it.

“We want to put children’s books in children’s homes,” said Pam Womack, who is president of the Lincoln County Friends of the Library. Womack has joined with others in the area to raise funds for Lincoln County Ferst Readers, which is part of Ferst Foundation for Childhood Literacy.

The group has registered more than 200 local children from birth to 5 years old to each receive a year’s worth of free age-appropriate books — one delivered by mail to the child’s home each month. It will cost the local organization $36 annually per child to make that happen.

The national mission of Ferst, a 501c3 non-profit public foundation, is to provide books for local communities to prepare preschool children for reading and learning success.

The books are mailed each month — at no charge to the parents — from the “Read to Me Library” at Ferst’s headquarters in Madison. The books are chosen by a panel of experts in the field of early child development and education, Womack said.

Parents aren’t left out either. They get a parent’s guide as well as a monthly newsletter with each book to provide them with support material like reading guides and child activity pages that are designed to make reading fun for the family.

The program is free to the parents, but it costs Lincoln County Ferst Readers.

“It’s free to the children and their family to get books each month,” Womack said. “It’s their books to keep.”

Womack worked to bring the program to Lincoln County in an effort to get children reading before starting kindergarten.

“We want to make sure that every child learns to read,” she said. “Reading scores will go up and we’ll have better students, better employees and better employers.”

Womack and other volunteers are starting the program with an anonymous grant that will cover the cost for the first year. Their goal is to make sure that every child signed up remains in it until they’re 5 years old. By then they’ll be in school and hopefully be reading fluently, she said.

“Children are coming to kindergarten already two to three years behind,” she said. “Children who read have a tremendously larger chance of succeeding.”

Shirley Dickerson has signed up dozens of families for the program. Working at the WIC office in Brookhaven, she sees lots of women with infants and small children who can benefit from getting the books.

She tells them about the program because some of the children she sees don’t have access to books.

“They are excited,” she said. “The word ‘free,’ that’s a key word. Everybody likes getting free stuff.”

For Dickerson, who is a grandmother, helping children get a head start in the world is her motivating factor.

“It’s important to start them at an early age reading,” she said.

Forms to register a child are available at the Lincoln County Public Library. The program is open to all children age 0 to 5, no matter the income level of the family, Womack said.

Dickerson suggests that if a parent who signs up their children can afford the yearly fee, they are welcome to make a donation that covers the cost. She urges those who can afford more — or those without children — to make a donation to cover the cost of someone else’s child.

“We want people to know they have an opportunity to help us,” she said.

Send donations to Lincoln County Ferst Readers, 100 South Jackson St., Brookhaven MS 39601 or call Womack at 601-320-4304.

“We are excited about giving the children an opportunity to read,” she said. “If you can’t read, the library’s a closed book.”