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Salisbury, Rowan County to launch summer reading program next week

By Mark Wineka
mwineka@salisburypost.com
Stung by an outsider’s assessment that Salisbury and Rowan County children were lagging behind in their reading skills, local government officials are launching their first summer reading program next week.
For five consecutive Wednesdays between July 15 and Aug. 12, the city of Salisbury and Rowan County will sponsor “Read to Your Child Days.”
At each session, which will promote reading through the county library system, children will receive free books and chances to win door prizes, including a $249 Wii play system.
Other towns throughout the county also are helping with the Read to Your Child Days.
Each session will run from 5-7 p.m. Here’s the schedule and locations:
– July 15, Rowan Public Library, 201 W. Fisher St., Salisbury;
– July 22, Spencer Library Park, Fourth Street, Spencer.
– July 29, South Rowan Branch Library, 920 Kimball Road.
– Aug. 5, East Rowan Branch Library, 110 Broad St., Rockwell.
– Aug. 12, Cleveland Town Hall, 302 E. Main St., Cleveland.
The reading events are open to children from pre-school age to grade 12.
Children storytime sessions, in which city and county officials will be reading stories, will be held every 15 minutes. Free refreshments, a police car, fire truck, recycling truck, Parks and Recreation games and information booths also will be on site.
Everything is being funded by Salisbury and Rowan County, with support from the municipalities.
A Wii and other prizes will be given out every week.
To receive free books, children will have to register for a library card or they are encouraged to bring their library cards with them. The library cards serve as their registrations for door prizes.
Designated free book areas will offer titles separated into categories by age and reading levels.
Salisbury Mayor Susan Kluttz said the Read to your Child Days are the beginning of what government officials hope can become a much larger initiative in years to come.
At its annual retreat in February, Salisbury City Council heard from Dr. Suzanne Morse, the Charlottesville, Va., author of “Smart Communities.”
Morse warned local officials that children not reading at the appropriate level by the third grade hold the strong potential to become high school dropouts. She shared statistics demonstrating the connection between dropouts and a rise in criminal activity and youth violence.
Salisbury City Council set a goal of finding ways to provide additional support, beyond its gang prevention and positive youth initiatives, to enhance reading and math skills among youth.
City and county officials met in May with Rowan-Salisbury Board of Education members to outline an initial program focused on reading.
Kluttz personally contacted mayors in every Rowan municipality to explain the venture.
“The support from local government throughout Rowan County has been amazing,” she said. “The towns of China Grove, Cleveland, East Spencer, Faith, Granite Quarry, Landis, Rockwell and Spencer, along with the city of Kannapolis, have pledged their support on behalf of the children.
“Together we hope to assist in raising youth self-esteem, strengthening family bonds and promoting high school achievements.”
Kluttz also credited support from Dr. Judy Grissom, superintendent of the Rowan-Salisbury School System; Dr. Sarah Hensley, director of elementary education; and Jeff Hall, director of Rowan Public Library.
“A love of reading is truly one of the greatest tools a child can receive,” Kluttz said, “and reading is a key component in ensuring a solid educational foundation for the future.”
Carl Ford, chairman of the Rowan County Board of Commissioners, said in a press release Tuesday that he was proud of local government officials and their dedication to children.
“When children are read to by an adult, their interest in reading grows and their language skills are able to develop more fully,” Ford said.
“Reading allows children to learn proper grammar and provides the ability for expressing one’s self verbally.”
He said reading aloud also gives children the opportunity to hear words pronounced correctly and exposes them to new vocabulary.

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