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Michael Finlay, center, reads with Joya, 3, and Isaac, 6.

Itemizer-Observer

POLK COUNTY — The team at Smart Reading is looking for ways to share reading amid temporary school closures and social distancing orders.

Smart, a statewide effort that pairs adult volunteer readers with students in preschool through third grade for one-on-one reading sessions, sent out a news release last week offering information about resources.

They have about 33,000 books planned for giveaway days for 11,000 students statewide in April and May, according to the release.

“No matter what ends up happening with Oregon’s schools, we want to get these books into kids’ hands, so we’ll be working with our school and community partners in the coming days and weeks to determine a plan for how and when to do this,” the release states.

Michael Finlay, senior program manager at Smart Northwest area, said the Marion-Polk team has been getting a lot of suggestions for ways to distribute, but has not yet worked out the details.

“At Independence and other local programs in Marion and Polk counties, our coordinators were working really hard to get all their students their books for March,” Finlay said. “Our site coordinators themselves (came) in to make sure that each kid got to choose their books before heading back to class.”

The news release from Smart said it was “impossible to know what the coming weeks and months will hold for Oregonians, our families, communities and schools. And if and when schools reopen, we don’t know what things will look like for our program and our volunteers this school year.”

They said they are committed to taking it day by day, and following the guidance of Oregon’s government leaders, public health officials and educators.

“We also know that school closures aren’t hitting all families equally,” the release states. “Not all families have access to technology, reliable internet and online learning opportunities for their children, so missing school will have a disproportionately negative impact on those kids and families. As an organization serving kids in Oregon’s highest-need schools, we’re committed to doing everything we can to ensure kids and families get the support they need, and we know that our efforts to help kids become strong, confident readers will be needed in the coming months and years more urgently than ever.”

Books, Reading Resources

Even though Smart Reading isn’t in session, there are plenty of ways we can all continue to have fun with books in our lives. Whether you’re home with kids, working from home or otherwise, we think everyone can use some fun in their lives and the reminder that enjoyment of books can take place anytime, anywhere.

• Doodle with Mo Willems: Smart Reading students love books by bestselling author, Mo Willems. To help provide connection while we’re all in varying degrees of isolation, Mo is hosting lunchtime doodle sessions where you can join in some drawing fun and submit your creations to The Kennedy Center. Check out episode 1 here.

• Educational Resources for Families: In the face of interrupted instruction, a number of companies are offering free support and resources for students, families and teachers. Scholastic, a longtime partner and supporter of Smart Reading, has created a free resource that provides students with about 20 days’ worth of learning exercises.

Here are some additional free resources for students and families:

Highlights Kids

Khan Academy

National Geographic Kids

Oxford Owl for Home

PBS Kids

TIME for Kids

Wonderopolis

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