Molly Stark kicks off the Year of the Book

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BENNINGTON — Molly Stark Elementary students on Friday chose the first of ten books they'll be able to take home this year thanks to the Year of the Book Program.

Year of the Book is a project sponsored by a $25,000 grant from the Children's Literacy Foundation. This is the second straight year a school from Bennington has been chosen to participate, as the program. CLiF Executive Director Duncan McDougall, who visited Molly Stark on Friday to kick off the program, said that is was "highly unusual" for a community to be selected as one of schools to receive the grant in back-to-back years.

As part of the program, the Bennington Free Library also receives $1,000 for new books. The library also used CLiF grant funds to kick-start this summer's "1,000 Books Before Kindergarten Program." Children's Librarian Linda Donigan described the program as "amazing" and "transformational" and said that it went a long way to strengthen connections between the children, their families, and the public library.

Besides the ten books that each student will be able to take home, the program also funds new books for the school's library and visits from authors and other literacy figures throughout the year. Last year at Bennington Elementary, the program's funding allowed students to be visited by Vermont authors Jim Arnosky and Natalie Kinsey-Warnock.

According to CLiF, "The CLiF Year of the Book sponsorship supplements literacy curricula at schools with high percentages of students scoring below state standards on reading and writing tests and high percentages of students who qualify for free or reduced lunch. The grant aims to build a culture of literacy in these communities by working with schools, families, town libraries, and even local businesses to inspire a love of reading and writing amongst children. The grant provides new books for town, school, and classroom libraries multiple literacy presentations and workshops by professional authors, storytellers, and illustrators field trips, mini-grants for teachers' classroom projects parent literacy seminars professional development opportunities for teachers and up to 10 new books for students to choose and keep over the course of the school year."

"Molly Stark is very excited about this amazing opportunity that CLiF has given us," said Allyson Hoffman, Molly Stark library media specialist, when the grant was announced last spring. "We, as a team, as well as CLiF (program) director Meredith Scott and her team, are working together to make these events fun and engaging to create a lifelong love of reading and writing for our Molly Stark learners and their families."

To learn more about CLiF, including the other schools that received the Year of the Book grant this year, visit their website at clifonline.org.

Reach staff writer Derek Carson at 802-447-7567, ext. 122 or @DerekCarsonBB

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