BY ROSIE PIGA PIZZO
“You mean I can keep it forever?” That’s a typical response when children learn they can pick any book from the stacks provided for them by Team First Book of Monroe County.
Team First Book co-chair Joanne Weddle has witnessed many scenes like that since the Monroe County chapter began in 2010. “We have the best time going to schools and watching children pick out books,” says Weddle, a retired Monroe County Community School Corporation (MCCSC) administrator and teacher.
In its first six years, Team First Book has distributed an estimated 50,000 new books to 1,200 children in Monroe County through Title I schools within MCCSC and Richland-Bean Blossom Community School Corporation (RBBCSC), The Project School, Monroe County United Ministries, Head Start, Boys & Girls Clubs of Bloomington, Thriving Connections, and Girls, Inc. of Monroe County.
The primary goal is to support children from birth through age 8 from low-income families, enabling them to acquire age-appropriate reading skills by the third grade. “It’s about getting books into the homes of low-income children,” Weddle says. “We focus on the early stages to build that basic reading foundation.”
The Monroe County chapter began when Akola Krishnan, who had recently retired from Johnson & Johnson, wanted to devote her time to a good cause. She learned that a First Book chapter did not exist locally and contacted Patty Callison, who had retired after 25 years as a librarian with the Monroe County Public Library. Callison became a co-chair. The two brought on Weddle and retired RBBCSC kindergarten teacher Denise Ogren to round out the group.
To reach the goal of each child receiving five or six books per year, the chapter must raise $22,000–$25,000 for 2018. Local agencies and schools use the funds to choose books from the national First Book Marketplace. The cost of each book averages $3, which also covers shipping and handling.“Many of these books are hardcover, and all are high-quality books,” says Callison.
For more information, visit Team First Book-Monroe County on Facebook. Send donations to: Team First Book, P.O. Box 1325, Bloomington, IN 47402.