A Publication of WTVP

With new technologies and 40-hour work weeks, reading has fallen by the wayside for many adults. According to, 58 percent of the U.S. adult population never reads a book after high school; neither do 42 percent of college graduates. The roots of this can be seen even before kindergarten.

When a student fails to learn to read, it affects the rest of his or her life. ISAT scores can be strong indicators of whether they will graduate high school, how successful they will be at their jobs and what their level of community involvement will be. The state of Indiana even predicts its future prison population using second-grade reading scores, because half of all prisoners can neither read nor write. Over the last few years, several notable programs have been developed in central Illinois with the mission of getting books into the hands of children at an early age.

Look! It’s My Book!
According to the Reading Literacy in the United States report, 61 percent of households in lower socioeconomic classes do not possess a single book. Because more than half of the students in Peoria’s District 150 live below the poverty line, a nonprofit group was formed to improve children’s reading habits and capabilities. Based on similar successful programs around the country, Look! It’s My Book! gives students six age-appropriate books each year to build their own home libraries.

"We’ve made an effort to have at least a selection of 10 different titles for each grade," says the organization’s vice president, Lizanne Gray, "because it’s been found that if children choose, they’re buying into it. They’re not getting something that somebody’s saying, ‘Well, this is the book of the month.’ We want them to choose."
The program originally started at Thomas Jefferson School, but has grown to include Irving as well. Janet Roth, the group’s president, is hoping to develop it even further so all children in District 150, from kindergarten through fourth grade, will be able to participate.

Roth recalls the excitement when it was found that similar programs had been successfully implemented in other underperforming schools. "Just on the basis of being given six books a year, they went from underperforming on national tests to [scoring] above the national average," she said. Hoping that District 150 will see similar results, Look! It’s My Book! continues to raise money and awareness for their cause. For more information or to donate, visit

Be a Page Turner
Success by 6 is a program focused on teaching children before they reach kindergarten. According to the Illinois State Board of Education, 40 percent of children entering kindergarten have not met developmental goals. The Heart of Illinois United Way has initiated this program to give pre-kindergarten children a book every month.

Success by 6’s Page Turner program targets children ages three to six and hopes to encourage children and parents to read together. The program is currently taking place in schools and day care programs in six counties-reaching 78 childcare facilities and 2,900 children-but with the state budget on the chopping block, those numbers may soon shrink.

Because those who participate are not old enough to read on their own, parents become an important part of the program. Along with the books, families receive a calendar with information about child development and educational activities, intended to help parents take an active role in their children’s learning.

According to Success by 6 Project Manager Maggie Heppner, the teachers and volunteers are the real driving force behind the program. They have created an atmosphere of excitement in the classroom. For Heppner and these teachers, the small details can be some of the most essential.

"We’ve got name plates that we’ve developed for our books, and we ask teachers to not let a book go home without that child’s name in it. We want that child to know that it is their book for their at-home library." Success by 6 is hoping to give children an early start that will keep them ahead for the rest of their education. For more information, contact Heppner at 674-5181 or [email protected]. iBi