Education is so critical to future success in life that an early love of learning, especially reading, is one of the biggest advantages a child can have. To make sure as many Idaho kids as possible get that opportunity, the Idaho Youth Ranch launched a new literacy program called “Ranch Readers” through its thrift stores in February 2013. The response has been tremendous--parents, teachers, store staff, and especially kids across the state are enthusiastically on board.
Between February 2013 and December 2014 the organization’s 29 thrift stores across the state gave away more than 100,000 books to Idaho students, one book at a time. Lined up end-to-end that would be a row of books 16 miles long!
Here’s how Ranch Readers works. Any child up to age 17 can visit any IYR thrift store and take home a free book of their choice with a Ranch Readers bookmark. When they finish the book, they bring the bookmark back to the store to get it stamped and get another free book, winning a prize for every five books they finish. There is never any cost to participate and kids can keep all the books they read.
Hannah Hansen of Blackfoot is only three years old, but already a book lover. She loves going to the Blackfoot thrift store with her siblings and getting to pick out her own books, just like the big kids. “When it’s nap time she takes her books to bed with her,” said Hannah’s mother, Emilie Hansen. “She likes to make up her own stories to go along with the pictures. And of course, my older ones all love reading to Hannah.” Emilie heard about Ranch Readers from a teacher at the Blackfoot Charter School about a year ago and has been participating with her children ever since. (*See Hannah's photo, below!)
Carrie Miller of Emmett has five kids who are Ranch Readers, and each one is now on their sixth Ranch Readers bookmark (that’s more than 25 books completed). Carrie has a degree in elementary education and taught kindergarten in public schools for 11 years. Teaching the building blocks of reading was always her favorite subject. She now homeschools her kids and appreciates how Ranch Readers provides a fun way to use books and reading to motivate and inspire learning.
Every other week, the Miller family goes into town to get groceries and run errands, and the Idaho Youth Ranch store has become a mandatory stop on the way home, right after the Emmett Public Library.
“They love it, I love it!” Carrie said. “It’s instant positive reinforcement. They get a free book, and as soon as they read it they get a stamp and a new book, and after five books they get to pick out a prize. And of course, while we’re there mom gets to do a little shopping, too.”
During the first week in February all 29 Idaho Youth Ranch stores celebrated the 100,000 book milestone with book sales, readings, and in-store coloring and craft activities for kids. Take a look at the photos below to see the Ranch Readers displays at IYR stores in Twin Falls, Coeur d'Alene, and Blackfoot. For a list of all IYR store locations, click here.