Christina Osentoski reads about alternative medicines Thursday at the Craig branch of the Moffat County Libraries. Osentoski said she appreciates using library resources, which help with her studies to earn a pharmacology degree in the future. According to Colorado Student Assessment Program scores, Moffat County students lag behind state averages in reading and writing.

Photo by Shawn McHugh

Christina Osentoski reads about alternative medicines Thursday at the Craig branch of the Moffat County Libraries. Osentoski said she appreciates using library resources, which help with her studies to earn a pharmacology degree in the future. According to Colorado Student Assessment Program scores, Moffat County students lag behind state averages in reading and writing.

Moffat County Literacy Council looks to boost interest in reading

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Linda Nelson helps her son Lawrence, 2, middle, and his friend Paxton Rudd, 2, pick out a free book from the book cart during story time Thursday at the Craig branch of the Moffat County Libraries. The recently formed Moffat County Literacy Council received a grant to promote literacy throughout the county.

Mikayla Quinn said her favorite book is a tie among all of the “Percy Jackson & the Olympians” series.

She likes the dynamic adventures and the creative characters.

And, she likes books way better than movies.

“Books have more stories,” the fourth-grader said. “And movies always get cut short.”

She has lost count of the number of books she’s read, and someday she hopes to write her own.

But, not every child has the same interest in the literary world as Mikayla.

Some children never develop an interest in reading, said Mary Quinn, Mikayla’s mother and a Moffat County High School English teacher.

“I’d say 20 percent of my students just don’t have that passion for reading, just don’t really like it,” Quinn said. “They struggle finding the appeal in it.”

Deb Roberts, a MCHS teacher leader in literacy, agreed that reading books was not top on the priority list for many teenagers.

“These days kids just get so much input from the computer, from TV and music,” Roberts said. “Sitting down with a book is a completely different experience, or for most of them it’s not modeled at home by their parents.

“It’s hard to capture their interest.”

In January, a literacy council of local librarians, teachers and administrators formed to stress the importance of literacy to families in the community.

Using a $3,000 grant, the Literacy Council is focusing on community awareness and is handing out free books at upcoming community events in April, culminating in a literacy festival April 29 at the Boys & Girls Club of Craig.

Mel Ferree, Boys & Girls Club of Craig unit director, is a member of the committee because she sees literacy as having a place in every stage of life.

Every day at the club, she sees interest and struggles with literacy.

“I think a lot of kids are just like, ‘If I just get through school, it’ll be OK,’” she said. “But, you will need to use it every day. I just feel like it’s just a lack of interest from the kids to do things outside of school. But, there are kids really, really struggling with literacy. And these middle school students, they really need to start getting it down before they get left behind.”

Ferree knows that reading and writing may not be everyone’s favorite subject, but she tries to incorporate it into the programming for the 130 students that frequent the club.

“Sometimes the kids don’t always want to come here and learn, so you kind of have to sneak it in,” she said. “With the teens, we got them to read ‘Twilight’ and ‘New Moon.’ But, even when we were looking for books (for the Literacy Council to give away) we had a hard time finding things that would interest kids that they haven’t already read in school.”

In the Moffat County School District, students who exhibit struggles in reading or show signs of learning disabilities get extra help with reading specialists and paraprofessionals during intervention time.

While the intervention program will remain, looming budget cuts might change the structure of the program, possibly cutting between $300,000 and $400,000 from the program.

For Ferree, this puts even more emphasis on literacy learning in the home and family engagement.

She said putting on literacy events and offering free books at family events could help promote higher expectations for literacy in the community.

“Part of it’s awareness,” Ferree said. “We’re hoping for families to realize how important reading is. We know there are a higher graduation rates for kids whose parents read to them. But, people are buying food, paying for their house. Maybe they can’t go out and buy a new book all the time.

“We want to give them that chance, as well as give them family time, because we know a lot of these parents work a lot.”

Ferree has seen firsthand that some teenagers still struggle with reading and writing.

One of Ferree’s students at the Boys & Girls Club is a member of the leadership group, and Ferree said the girl is bright and could have a successful future.

But, she struggled to read a radio ad from a piece of paper.

“I was frustrated,” Ferree said. “Very frustrated. You see their potential. These kids have dreams, big dreams. They want to be singers, doctors, marine biologists … And I want them to accomplish them.”

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