HARDIN — Barriers that are unique to Montana’s rural areas and indigenous communities sometimes make it difficult for kids to access books and begin their reading journey, according to Hardin Primary School Principal Roxanne Not Afraid.
“Sometimes that access isn’t available. I think the availability of a Barnes and Noble, ya know, book stores, because we’re in a rural community,” she said.
There’s a public library and school libraries in Hardin, but during the summer, sometimes those resources are closed or kids need a ride to check out books.
“The challenges are that every child has their own personal library in their home, and just getting that accessibility to have an actual book in their hands and to have a collection of books at home,” Not Afraid said.
She says once kids build their reading skills, everything else can take off from there.
The Hardin district now has preschool which librarian Teri Lynn Wagner says helps a lot.
“When they come to school they haven’t had the language, there’s the language barrier, and they just don't have the language yet and just aren’t ready to speak some of that or be ready to read,” Wagner said.
The Hardin district’s Parent Center runs programming to support families in reading at home and other efforts.
“That’s the biggest thing, is getting books into those kids' hands. And do some of our books come back if they’ve checked them out or whatever, no, but we move on, that’s ok,” she said.
According to the Scripps Foundation, the number of books in the home is one of the greatest predictors of a child’s success in school and beyond. Decades of research has confirmed the correlation between childhood poverty, lack of access to reading resources, lower reading proficiency and the resulting struggle to complete high school and prepare for the world beyond.
To donate to KBZK's efforts to get free books into the homes of local kids, visit our donation page.