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Local kids lack access to books they need to become successful readers

40% of Omro Elementary Students are economically disadvantaged
If You Give A Child A Book...
Posted at 5:25 PM, Sep 01, 2022
and last updated 2022-09-02 07:15:05-04

OMRO, Wis. (NBC 26) — Studies show the ability to read can help lift children out of poverty.

Many children in low-income neighborhoods lack access to the books they need to become successful readers.

Hillcrest Primary School Student chooses new books
Hillcrest Primary School first-grader chooses his two free books on Tuesday January 18th at the "If You Give A Child A Book..." free Scholastic Bookfair.

That's where the Scripps Howard Fund's, "If You Give A Child A Book..." annual campaign steps in.

This is our 4th year donating brand new books to local students and this year we're taking our campaign to the kids at Omro Elementary.

"It's a small town with a big heart," says Nicki Paulus, District Reading Specialist for the Omro School District.

In the southern Fox Valley sits a slice of small-town Wisconsin. The City of Omro is a charming bedroom community tucked along the Fox River.

"It's just that small town feel and its family. It really is," Paulus says.

But like many small towns, the economic landscape is changing.

"This is something that's been building since the recession. Right before that, we saw a bunch of manufacturing jobs in the southern part of the valley that left," says Dave Wellhofer, Principal at Omro Elementary School.

"And it's more and more families applying for free and reduced lunch where we didn't have that before," he adds.

According to the Department of Public Instruction, 39.9% of students are economically disadvantaged. Educators say, when families struggle oftentimes, students struggle.

"Certain things take less of a priority. When one parent instead of two parents are home at night sometimes the homework gets pushed aside," Wellhofer says.

That's why NBC 26 and The Scripps Howard Fund as chosen Omro Elementary School to benefit from this year's "If You Give A Child a Book..." campaign.

100% of the money raised goes directly to putting brand-new, age-appropriate books into the hands of students.

"We can make good readers here, we can improve our test scores but I'm a firm believer if we want to make kids excellent readers and help kids, they need to be doing it outside of these walls," Wellhofer says.

"We know it is really important to foster a love of reading early on in a child's life. And getting books especially new books into the homes of students is a great opportunity for us," says Erin Calvin, Director of Curriculum and Instruction for the Omro School District.

According to the American Pediatrics Association, regardless of race, gender, or nationality, students who read the most have the most success in school and as adults.

It's never too early to start reading to your children
It's never too early to start reading to your children. "If You Give A Child A Book..." campaign 2021

That's why giving a child a book may seem small but can be life-changing.

"They will be just really excited to have their own books and build their own library at home," Paulus says.

This is a gap that has been staring us in the face. the socioeconomic gap. So a program like this that we can get books into the schools," says Principal Wellhofer. "With programs like this, every little bit helps," he adds.

All it takes is just $5 to buy 1 book for a local child who needs it most. Just CLICK HERE to make a secure donation to our "If You Give A Child A Book..." campaign.

Your donation will make a big difference in the lives of students at Omro Elementary Schools.