LAFAYETTE — Acadiana’s efforts to develop a lifelong “love of reading” in young children kicked off Thursday with the Barnes & Noble Holiday Book Drive that benefits the more than 3,800 4-year-olds in the seven-parish area.
The drive, which continues through Jan. 1, is held in partnership with the Cecil Picard Center for Child Development and Lifelong Learning, which receives the donations and distributes them to public preschool classes in Acadia, Evangeline, Iberia, Lafayette, St. Landry, St. Martin and Vermilion parishes.
Billy Stokes, director of the Picard Center at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, said Thursday that as the state sets in motion its plan to strengthen early childhood education through Act 3, outreaches such as the book drive, which support these young students, become more imperative.
The book drive benefits many children whose families cannot afford a book or to build a home library, district school officials said during the kick-off event.
Putting a book in the hands of the young children creates a “powerful emotional opportunity” that comes with being read aloud to, said Ann Hardy, elementary supervisor for Vermilion Parish Schools.
“We need to develop a love of reading and it begins at this level,” Hardy said.
“This is not just a book you’re donating. It’s an experience...We hopefully are impacting these children for the rest of their lives,” said Christine Breaux, store community relations manager.
A class of 4 -year-old students from J. Wallace James Elementary attended the event and received “Ready for School” word flashcards as a their gift for being the store’s guests. Before returning to school, the young students were asked to offer their book recommendations to shoppers who may need help picking out a book to donate to the drive.
The students excitedly browsed the stacks in the children’s section.
Huestin Debetaz, who celebrated his 5th birthday Thursday, quickly found one of his favorite titles, “Chicka Chicka Boom Boom.”
Last year, more than 6,000 books were donated to the drive. After the books were distributed to preschool students in the seven-parish area, the remainder of the books were distributed to Head Start and child care centers that partner with local school districts.
Act 3 of the 2012 legislative session, also known as the Early Childhood Education Act, calls for denying state aid to low-performing pre-kindergarten schools and centers as part of Louisiana’s overhaul of the system.
State Superintendent of Education John White has said the overhaul means that:
Pilot projects to usher in the changes are set for the 2013-14 school year, followed by a statewide test run the following school year.
All the changes are supposed to be in place by the 2015-16 school year.
While the programs cover youngsters from birth to age 5, the chief focus is on 3- and 4-year-olds.
About 42,000 students are enrolled in publicly-funded pre-K programs for 4-year-olds.
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