Oklahoma has a chance to win 50,000 free children's books thanks to a contest sponsored by First Book, a nonprofit organization that focuses on distributing books to children at risk for low literacy. Oklahoma won the contest in 2007, and is in the running for the grand prize this year.
To help Oklahoma win the 50,000 free children's books, visit www.firstbook.org, click "What Book Got You Hooked?" and follow the easy directions. Select Oklahoma as the state you wish to receive the free books. After you vote, the site takes you to a list of the state rankings.
Leslie Gelders, literacy coordinator at the Oklahoma Department of Libraries, is once again spearheading a get-out-the-vote campaign to bring the books to the Sooner State.
"For the past month, literacy tutors, libraries, teachers and civic groups have been voting on the First Book website to help Oklahoma win the books," Gelders said. "In 2007, Oklahoma won the contest with 5,000 more votes than any other state, and about 80 local organizations received books to give to children statewide."
According to Gelders, getting books into the hands of children is essential to improving literacy in the state.
"According to First Book, middle-income neighborhoods have a ratio of 13 books for every child," she said."In low-income neighborhoods, the ratio is one age-appropriate book for every 300 children."
Additionally, Gelders said the First Book study indicates that 80% of preschool and after-school programs serving low-income populations have no age-appropriate books for their children.
"Giving children books they can call their very own is one of the most important things we can do to foster literacy in our young people."
Getting books into homes can also encourage the sharing of books by parent and child. "By the age of two, children who are read to on a regular basis have greater language comprehension, larger vocabularies, and higher cognitive skills than their peers," Gelders said.