On Thursday, students at Benjamin Banneker Elementary received free books.
“I’m reading what I love,” 7-year-old Keyon Johnson said as he shared his new favorite book.
Keyon is a second-grader at Benjamin Banneker, and his new book will be the first of many added to his own home library.
“Reading is fundamental,” Benjamin Banneker Elementary Principal, Harrison Neal Sr. said. “Today was a partnership with United Way to bring in ‘My Very Own Library’ with Scholastic where every student in grades Kindergarten through 6th grade receive, by the end of the school year, 10 free books.”
It’s an initiative not only for students at Benjamin Banneker, but also for more than 2,400 students in Kansas City Public Schools.
“Research shows that a child who cannot read proficiently by the third grade has a one in six chance of dropping out of high school, and so it is important to develop their reading skills very young and it's important for them to have access to books and a large vocabulary at a young age,” Chief Operating Officer of United Way of Greater Kansas City Michelle Hoggerty said.
Kansas City, Missouri is one of seven communities selected to be apart of the My Very Own Library program, where students will get ten free books by the end of the school year for their own home libraries.
The other six sites selected for the program this school year were: Faxon, Garfield, Longfellow, Primitivo Garcia, Troost and Wendell Phillips at Attucks elementary schools.
The program is supported by the United Way of Greater Kansas City, Turn the Page KC, Lead to Read, Scholastic Book Fairs and Kansas City Public Schools.
“The opportunity for them to receive ten free books here at Banneker, I think it's just going to boost reading and ultimately boost student achievement,” Neal said. “If students can read, they can do anything. Reading gives you an opportunity to explore different worlds.
“Ten books is a lot,” Keyon said. “I want to make my own library. I want to make a whole library.”
Benjamin Banneker students heard about the importance of reading from school administrators and Mayor Sly James.
Author Angela Cervantes also shared her story on why she became a writer and signed books for each of the students.
Neal said it’s a conversation that goes beyond the classroom walls.
“Every student in this school that's receiving ten free books, it's an expectation that they are reading them at home,” he said. “We try to partner with our parents to let them know that we're going to help out, we're going to do all we can in school. They know that parents play an integral part here at Benjamin Banneker. Our parents do a very wonderful job of making sure they're involved with the school, reading with students at home.
Right now, Benjamin Banneker is looking to recruit new volunteers that want to commit to reading with its students weekly, called Lead to Read KC.
Local funders of the My Very Own Library program are: United Way of Greater Kansas City, The H&R Block Foundation, the Sosland Foundation and the Catalyst Fund for KCPS Students.
Rae Daniel can be reached at Rae.Daniel@KSHB.com.