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Scottsbluff’s Kinder-Carding program reaches youth to get them on an early path to learning

March 11, 2019

SCOTTSBLUFF — For 25 years, the Lied Scottsbluff Public Library has been helping kindergärtners get their first library card and setting them on the path of lifelong reading.

In honor of that anniversary, library staff have created a special prize — a LEGO raffle basket — for children who are kindergärtners this year. For those who have already come into the library and those who come by March 30, they will be entered into a drawing to win a special gift as new readers.

“We wanted to offer something extra to promote 25 years of the program,” said Deb Carlson, children’s librarian.

The basket features LEGO-themed books, movies, a “LEGO Movie 2” building set and a crocheted Lego figure created by Penny Torske, as well as other Lego-themed prizes.

“It represents a collection of things the library offers with learning in different ways,” said Noelle Thompson, library director.

Whenever a kindergärtner comes into the library for their first card, they receive a tour of the building and learn about the programs available to them. Carlson said the moment a child receives a card, it’s a thrill for them.

“We sometimes forget how it feels when you’re a little kid and get something of your own,” Carlson said.

Mackenzie Watson, teen librarian and assistant children’s librarian, has had a library card for most of her life. She participated in many programs with the library as a youth, including the summer reading program.

“Getting my library card prepped me to be a lifetime reader,” Watson said. “I’m a big reader and it does start with your first (library) card.”

Carlson began the campaign to get every child to register for a library card in 1994. Back then, libraries across the nation had traveling packets of ideas. A library in Shaker Heights, Ohio, had a program where they had a list of kindergärtners and delivered invitations for children to come and get their card. Carlson needed a little support and asked Steve Hungerford, then publisher of the Star-Herald, if he would be willing to sponsor the program.

“He said, ‘I will support you, but you need to go and talk to the children in the classroom,’” Carlson said. “So we visited all the classrooms in Scottsbluff and urged them to come in and we’ve done that ever since.”

Hungerford wrote an editorial in support of the program. Twenty-five years of new readers have helped the program to thrive.

“This year, we had the entire kindergarten class of 16 at Community Christian get a card,” Watson said. “Every single one got a card.”

Watson said Kinder-Carding is a benefit to everyone in the family as she has witnessed other family members come in and use the library as well. The program has also created interest nationwide. They often contact Carlson for the details of the program so they can begin one of their own.

“They, too, understand they need something about that age to nurture the lifelong love of reading,” Carlson said.

Although there is a big push to get their first card in kindergarten, Carlson said it’s best to get a card when the child is ready.

“We target kindergärtners because that’s about the time they are ready,” Carlson said. “That’s when they begin to learn the sight words in school and they understand the idea of reading.”

Thompson recently saw a boy at the library who had asked for a library card for his fifth birthday.

“He came in and got his first card with us,” Thompson said. “He’s technically not in kindergarten yet, but we would never turn a person away who wants to read.”

Kindergärtners who have registered for their kinder-cards since the campaign began on Jan. 29 of this year have already been entered, and children in kindergarten who received the cards prior are eligible to enter as well once they visit the library and pick up their Kinder-Carding prizes.

All kindergärtners are welcome to register for their cards, including those who live or attend school outside of Scottsbluff and those who are home schooled. To register, the child must visit the library with a parent or guardian who provides staff with a photo ID and a proof of address.

All kindergärtners who sign up for their cards will also receive prizes including a “bonkers for books” headband and a yo-yo, as well as gift cards from Perkins and the Star-Herald for their parents or guardians.

The drawing will be held April 1. Kindergärtners are encouraged to register by March 30. For questions, contact Deb Carlson at 308-630-6284 or Mackenzie Watson at 308-630-6290.