The Friends Together United Methodist Preschool received a special gift from the Kansas Masonic Literacy Center Tuesday morning.

The school won $100 in books for its participation in the literacy center’s celebration of Kansas Literacy Week last month, which included a fun, literacy-based challenge for each day. Participants were asked to take photos and tag the Kansas Masonic Literacy Center in their posts for a chance to win a variety of prizes throughout the week.

Tasia Markowitz, assistant director for the Kansas Masonic Literacy Center, said she was excited to deliver the books — many of which were handpicked by Friends Together Teacher Cris Wilson — to the school.

“Dropping them off is the fun part, getting to see those kids and how excited they are to read,” Markowitz said. “Reading aloud to your children is critical, not only for language development, but also in understanding how books work. When you look at the front cover, what do you see? How do you turn the pages? There’s pictures, there’s words, and there’s meaning behind the pictures and the words. We are so excited to be able to give some books to a preschool classroom, especially some books they were definitely needing.”

Wilson, along with her Tuesday and Thursday class of 3-year-olds, was happy to accept the gift of books.

“Books are very expensive, but they are also very necessary,” she said. “It was nice — $100 of books is very nice.”

As an early childhood education teacher, Wilson said she knows how important literacy is for young children. She said reading books should be a family-based activity.

“Children should have books every day, and parents should be reading to their children every night and every time they have an opportunity,” Wilson said. “Here at preschool, we have three different opportunities during the day to look at books; so it is very, very important.”

Markowitz said there are a number of ways to help young children explore books, even if they aren’t quite reading yet. That can include letting a child explain in their own words what is happening in a book based on the illustrations, even if it doesn’t quite match the story. Another way is by letting them choose what books they want to read — even if they keep choosing the same books over and over again.

“A lot of times, children will find a favorite book that they want to read again and again,” Markowitz said. “As a parent, you can get tired of reading the same book, but that is perfectly normal. That is really one of the best things for kids to do, because it becomes repetitive and they can almost read it themselves. The biggest thing in beginning reading is believing you can read.”

Following a child’s lead is also important. If that means some books are left unfinished sometimes, that’s OK.

“Reading doesn’t always have to happen in a typical setting,” Markowitz said. “Reading can happen in the grocery store while you’re shopping, or in the car. Reading can happen anywhere.”

Markowitz said Kansas Literacy Week brought in participation from around the state.

“The goal was to promote Kansas Literacy Week and the joy of reading across the state,” she said. “We were pleased with our first activity like this and hope to reach more families, libraries and schools in the future.”

Other winners during literacy week were:

Tuesday — Amanda Schaefer (family participant)

Wednesday — Friends Together Preschool

Thursday — Stevens County Library

Friday — Hamilton County Library

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