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Montana educators encourage kids and families to read at home to improve literacy rates

Posted at 2:36 PM, Sep 05, 2023

HARDIN - Literacy is a key piece of a child’s development.

Without it, challenges compound over time beginning with delays in their educational progress. Some of the challenges for young readers can be simply where they live and having easy access to books.

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.

“Sometimes that access isn’t available. I think the availability of a Barnes and Noble, ya know, bookstores, because we’re in a rural community,” explained Hardin Primary School Principal Roxanne Not Afraid.

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.

Visit to donate to KPAX's efforts to get free books into the homes of local kids.