A nonprofit is stepping forward to lead a coalition in an initiative to combat childhood illiteracy in Northwest Louisiana.
Step Forward, established by the Community Foundation of North Louisiana, is the organization’s response to a study that assessed how prepared children are for school through careers after graduation.
From Cradle to Career found that many children in NWLA weren't ready for the some of the most important learning milestones.
Among the findings among children in early childhood, they say more than 50 percent of 5-year-olds in Northwest Louisiana are not ready to start kindergarten.
And just under 58 percent of third-graders don't meet the basic criteria in English for a student to finish the third grade.
"What we're doing is encouraging children to read and take books home that maybe wouldn't have an opportunity to get a book," said Mark Silva, a project volunteer with Little Free Libraries.
"It's been shown that if they don't have good reading comprehension by the third grade, their chances of graduating go down significantly."
Children in low-income families often lack books at home.
To combat this, Step Forward partnered with organizations throughout Northwest Louisiana to bring Little Free Libraries to public spaces.
A child can go through the books, pick which ones they like and keep them. They don't have to replace them.
"We hope this will encourage moms to read with their kids while they're here and then, hopefully, go home with those books and read at home," said Dr. Martha Whyte, medical director and administrator for the Northwest Louisiana region of the state Office of Public Health.
The books are donated through the Bossier Parish Library System and through a book drive with the Caddo District PTA.
So far, Caddo Career & Technology students have built six libraries to house the books.
"Not everybody has the chance to build something like this,” said Parker Brunson, a junior at Caddo Career & Technology. “And seeing the kids use these, it's always a good thing to know we built those and made those for them."
The library at Bossier Parish Health Unit has been up for a month. So far, around 50 books have been taken home.
"Encouraging, because the children are so excited about it," said Kristin Kennedy, the community engagement librarian with Bossier Parish Libraries.
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