Thousands of books handed out to Louisa kindergartners for free

Updated: Sep. 15, 2020 at 4:35 PM EDT
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LOUISA COUNTY, Va. (WWBT) - Kindergartners in Louisa County will be coming home with a heavier backpack this week.

Students will be receiving 10 brand new books thanks to a collaborative partnership between The Soho Center and the Library of Virginia.

The RED! Project was created by the Central Virginia non-profit to promote children’s literacy.

“We give away 300,000 brand new, high-quality, children’s books all over the state and it’s my joy to be doing that,” said Soho Center Director Jeanna Beker.

In its second year, the project has expanded across five school systems – Albemarle County, Charlottesville, Louisa County, Orange County, and the City of Richmond.

“It’s such an important thing to see that excitement of having a book of your own,” said John Metz, Deputy for Collection & Programs at the Library of Virginia.

“These are books you can keep forever and have a happy time reading,” Beker explained to the students.

Despite the COVID-19 measures in place in the school setting, kindergartners at Jouett Elementary School could not contain their enthusiasm.

“Whoa! This is a lot,” said one student.

“Having a story right in front of you, you can go so many places,” said Susan Anderson, a kindergarten teacher at Jouett.

However, now with the global pandemic, Beker said it’s even more important to give these families these resources.

“By the time children start kindergarten, they really officially need to learn to read,” she explained. “They need to learn to read well by third grade.”

“We’re very hopeful this year that we will be able to achieve the level that we’ve been reading in the past,” Anderson added. “It is smaller class sizes, but we only have them for two days. So, of course, we’re trying to do as much as we can in those two days and having that small group size is definitely making that possible.”

The initiative is also a way to introduce these families to other community assets.

“If we can just get them through the door [of the library], we can show them that this stuff is available to them for free,” Metz said.

The goal for The Soho Center is to expand this program to other school systems across the Commonwealth.

In Richmond, nearly 20,000 books will be handed out to the nearly 2,000 kindergartners soon. This is the first year Richmond Public Schools will take part in this program.

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