Whether in a doctor’s office or at a Back to School Fair, books from the Clallam County Literacy Council have caught the eyes of thousands of children on the Olympic Peninsula in the last year.
Created in 2003-2004 to show reading can be fun, the council — a nonprofit group of about a dozen volunteers — continues to distribute free books to children and adults through various agencies and partners to promote reading, particularly to children, for at least 20 minutes a day.
“The hope is to plant a seed because there’s not much that compares to learning to read,” council president Philomena Lund, a Sequim resident and retired teacher, said.
“If you learn to read, there are a lot of things you can do with your life.”
Even with a few volunteers, the literacy council remains a “well-oiled machine,” Lund said.
Numbers are still being tallied for last year, but organizers estimate the council gave out 4,250 books in 2017, and thousands more each year prior.
The literacy council has maintained a presence at close to a dozen events each year including Sequim and Port Angeles school districts’ Back to School Fairs, Homeless Connect and many more.
Lund said it’s not uncommon to see children plop down immediately and begin reading once they receive their free book.
“You see that one or two times and you’re sold (on volunteering),” she said.
The literacy council’s sticky label goes on books that helpers, led by volunteer Jo Ann Thompson of Sequim, distribute in 225 book baskets for its Bookworm Club, from Forks to Sequim, in venues such as waiting rooms and restaurants.
“They are wherever children might be expected to wait quietly throughout Clallam County with eight to ten books that are changed out periodically,” Lund said.
Books also go to new parents as they leave Olympic Medical Center and Forks Community Hospital, children entering foster care, and to food banks.
This month, the council provided books and gift cards for its annual Bookworm Reading Contest for preschoolers up to eighth-graders, so that public and private schools, after-school programs, preschools and others can offer reading contests of their own.
Turning the page
Along with planned giving/programming, the Clallam County Literacy Council can provide up to 100 children’s books once a year for organizations, and can supply book prizes for school and/or library contests.
The group no longer hosts a Family Literacy Day but looks to partner more with other agencies, such as the North Olympic Library System.
Under United Way of Clallam County, council volunteers look ahead to expand their offerings. A few possibilities are starting an illiteracy program with students and/or children and continuing student tutoring.
“We need other people with a vision and passion,” Lund said.
Volunteers say the most important step the council can make to assure children’s success is to help them become readers.
To support the group directly, designate funds go to the “Clallam County Literacy Council” by contacting United Way of Clallam County at 360-457-3011, email to email@example.com or visit www.unitedwayclallam.org.
To volunteer with the Clallam County Literacy Council, contact Lund at 360-477-4742 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Reach Matthew Nash at email@example.com.