Books for Children
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Books for Children Reading Fund

Sumter County's Pre-K program's goal for every child in the program is to prepare the child for a standard school program so they can succeed in school and life, and to have them leave the program with a love of reading and learning. The sad reality is that once a child falls behind, he or she usually stays behind forever. The money collected from groups like ours helps provide sets of books for the classrooms. The Sumter County School Board is always happy to partner with community groups that want to make a difference in the lives of children... groups like ours, who understand the importance and essential role that reading and school libraries play in the lives of children and their futures. If you'd like to make a donation to this fund at any time during the year, mail it to:

 Peg Tabor
3391 Empire Avenue
 The Villages, FL 32163

In the past, an envelope was passed around at Ladies Book Club meetings for donations to its Books for Children reading fund. These donations are not dues and are totally voluntary. Joyce Tisovec has collected and was the keeper of the money. At the end of the year, the amount of money collected for the year is determined, and early in the new year, the club awards a check for the amount collected to the Sumter County Pre-K program (children who have been evaluated using the Florida Assessment Test and have been deemed not ready to enter a standard school program yet). Many of these children are from very poor families. With COVID-19 ravishing our state, 2020 was strange (to say the least) and the club only met three times in person. And usually, Jeanne Harris-Lively would come to our February meeting and Joyce Tisovec would present Jeanne with check for the amount that members donated to the fund the previous year. This year, members dropped their donations off at Joyce's house near the end of 2020, then she sent the check to Jeanne and Jeanne was with us via Zoom video conferencing on Thursday, February 4th.

Peg Tabor, the Ladies Book Club coordinator, welcomed Jeanne and hoped she was pleasantly surprised when she got our donation. Jeanne was very pleasantly surprised and she agreed that last year was a bust year, but even though that was the case for most of us, the school still had to educate hundreds of children. So, even though our donations in the past were very important to the Pre-K program, it is even more important this year, with the pandemic still running wild, with children quarantined at home because they have COVID-19 or have been in contact with someone who tested positive, or were otherwise "excluded." For her small group of children (small being almost 300 kids), nothing is better than to send books home in backpacks, so they were very surprised and very happy to receive our donation, which has already been put into their account so they can continue to reach out to children through that connection with books.

What were some of the things the school did? Jeanne said it was a dog and pony show for sure because they were on spring break when the pandemic hit and a stay-at-home order was issued, so they went back to school with no students to teach; they no longer had that connection to the students. There was no warning, but they put together their online learning program, which they'd never done before. Small children do learn great online, but most children want that real book and real classmate-teacher experience. Using all resources available to them, they put together a teaching plan, put together paperwork packets, books, and supplies (crayons, pencils, paper, scissors... all the things they use in class). They bought a lot of little workbooks, all kinds of lessons and plans, and made learning backpacks for those stuck at home. Then they reached out to connect with their students and continue with their learning process. Although the children are using computers and social media, books are the bridge for doing that, for getting things back to the way they are used to learning and connecting with one another. During Read Across America week, they all read the same book at the same time, then children got to take a book home. So our donations are part of what makes all that happen. Even though our donation was important in the past, it's even more important now.

With children having to do so much online, Peg asked whether it was an issue for children who didn't have access to a computer at home? Jeanne said that it is an issue, but thank goodness, most homes do have a smart phone, so they are able to do a lot of this contact through a smart phone. Also, every child in Sumter County (kindergarten through 12th grade) have a tablet and in August of this year, their administration is trying to buy a tablet for every pre-kindergarten child, as well. Sod next year, even their Pre-K kids will have tablets.

Their administration has been very proactive. Last year, when students didn't have Internet access, they equipped school buses as hot spots and sent them out to remote areas to park so children could pull in and have access to and do school work through those school buses. They had a hot spot at each school site, as well, so parents could drive into the parking lot with their kids and have remote access from the car. But since Sumter County is so rural and such a long county, they've had to thin out those hot spots.

She added that we could not find a better place to put our money because they are stretching the dollars as far as possible. They are asking companies for discount coupons, free shipping, anything they can think of to spread that money for books and supplies further. The state and federal government has also given them extra money because of the pandemic. Our donation will be added to that, supplementing what they have to do to reach out to these families. Some of that money is also going to personal protection equipment and supplies, but books are the bridge she repeated. Peg interjected that as a group, we are more supportive of Jeanne and her organization because we know she is not frivolous with the money we give them. Jeanne added, "Frivolous is the last word. We squeeze that money until it squeals."

Charlotte Davis wondered whether the learning packs that Sumter County sends home are returned? She thought that might be a concern with the virus. Jeanne said the kids keep them. If it is something they have to have back, the materials are put into quarantine in a plastic box for so many days, so if they have the virus on them, it is gone by the time the items are put back into the classroom. As for supplies, they don't generally ask for those back, but if they do, they are sanitized before introducing them back into the classroom. Everyone is trying to follow the rules wearing masks, keeping six feet apart, the sanitizers, and all the Pre-K students have clear sneeze guards between students. If they need to take their masks off, there are mask-free spots in the classrooms where they can go and remove them for awhile.

Keeping books at home is not a huge issue, but their library systems are also working with them with a lot of AR online and book activities, so they are connecting all the dots to keep kids learning and moving forward.

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