The Santa Barbara libraries have more than 200 Reading Ambassadors, and their average age is roughly 9 years old, said the Central Library’s Lisa Gonzalez. In an after-school program that enlists children to learn to be storytellers, the kids go home with the assignment to read to a younger sibling or to their parents. The results have been enthusiastic, so much so that the Public Library System received a $1,000 innovation grant from the National Literacy Directory.
The librarians found that more than half the kids participating in the collaboration with the school district’s A-OK Afterschool Program — held at McKinley, Harding, Cleveland, Franklin, and Adelante schools and at Girls Inc. downtown and in Goleta — were reading to their brothers or sisters more frequently, even after the program ended. And their siblings were gaining a larger interest in books and reading. About a third of the kids who weren’t so interested in reading found they’d gained more fluidity, whether or not they read to a sibling at home.
The grant will go for materials in the “1,000 Books Before Kindergarten” effort the library is currently engaged in to develop lifetime listening and language skills among children. Just one book a night will reach a thousand within three years, the library encourages, with prizes along the way for every hundredth book.