More Than 100,000 First Graders Given Free Books Through Wyoming Reads Over 25 Years

Wyoming first grade students will each receive a free book.

Tuesday is Wyoming Reads Day, when first-graders across the state each receive their own book and, in many cases, guest readers are invited to read to students in classrooms.

The program has grown from a Casper-based reading initiative to a statewide celebration now in its 25th year that includes first grade classrooms in all 23 counties and distributes books to more than 7,000 students.

Chapter One

John Jorgensen established the Sue Jorgensen Library Foundation and the Wyoming Reads celebration to honor his late wife’s commitment to literacy and books.

Since its inception in 1996, Wyoming Reads has grown beyond Casper and Natrona County to supply books to first graders all over the Cowboy State, as well as other states, including Oregon and Minnesota. In total, more than 100,000 children have received books through the combined literacy programs.

Wyoming Reads has been awarded the Library of Congress State Literacy Award. The distinction recognizes organizations or programs that have made outstanding contributions to promoting literacy and/or reading in a state or local community.

This year’s books include:

·       “Dragons are the Worst!” (Alex Willan)

·       “Everything Will Be OK” (Anna Dewdney)

·       “I Don’t Want to Read This Book” (Max Greenfield)

·       “I’m Not Scared, You’re Scared” (Seth Myers)

·       “Knight Owl” (Christopher Denise)

·       “Mars! Earthlings Welcome” (Stacy McAnulty)

·       “Norman Didn’t Do It” (Ryan T. Higgins)

·       “Ribbit!” (Rodrigo Folgueira)

·       “Vampenguin” (Lucy Ruth Cummins)

·       “With Lots of Love” (Jenny Torres Sanchez)

Chapter Two

Teton County School District #1 K-5 literacy coach Hille Elwood is coordinating efforts of book distribution in her county at all public and private schools, even home-schooled kids if she can track them down.

“We want this to be a day where students get to celebrate reading. It so important for kids to have a hardback book of their own, and to take ownership of being a reader, in a sense,” Elwood said. “It’s an incredibly generous program that way.”

Elwood helped get books to first grade classrooms at Munger Mountain Elementary, where the dual-language school will celebrate Wyoming Reads in English and Spanish. Books also went out Jackson Elementary, Colter Elementary, Wilson Elementary and smaller outlying schools in Alta, Moran and Kelly.

At Jackson Hole Classical Academy in Jackson, Mrs. Kimie Nichols’ 14 first graders selected their own books Tuesday. Three students snatched up “Dragons,” making that title the most popular at JHCA by a narrow margin.

“I like reading because it will help you learn just about anything. And, also, it helps you with your phonograms,” first grader Lilah said.

Classmate Johnny added, “I like reading because it entertains me. I can use a voice like I’m the actor, and learn from it.”

Chapter Three

This year’s literary offerings include 10 books. That’s up from the typical six. Among them is first-time author and television celebrity Seth Meyers.

Meyers said his test audience included the three toughest critics he knows — his kids Ashe, 6; Axel, 4; and Adelaide, 1.

They all gave “I’m Not Scared, You’re Scared!” their seal of approval long before the final draft went to an editor.