School district works with community to get books in students’ hands, homes

OCEANSIDE — The Oceanside Unified School District is wrapping up its efforts to collect new and gently used books and get them in the hands and homes of children from birth to age 5. The citywide book drive is aimed to bolster kindergarten readiness.

Currently only 37 percent of Oceanside students who enter kindergarten have the readiness skills to succeed.

The student success gap continues in third grade where an average of 32 percent of district students is proficient in English Language Arts.

A low 34 percent of district high school graduates have completed the A to G required courses to attend a California State University or University of California school. Only 31 percent of students earn a post-secondary degree within six years of high school graduation.

“The gap starts really early,” Nicole Magnuson, executive director of the district’s Oceanside Promise initiative, said. “Having books in the home is really important. It helps level the playing field.”

The school district launched the Oceanside Promise initiative in 2015 as a means to work with community partners to address student success. Four work groups have been organized to look at different educational needs.

The group that focuses on early childhood success brainstormed the idea to hold a citywide book drive to provide tykes books, and raise awareness about the early literacy gap.

The group’s book drive efforts focus on the Eastside, Crown Heights and Libby Lake neighborhoods, where the lowest numbers of students have kindergarten readiness skills, and third grade English Language Arts proficiency.

A whopping 70 book collection sites were set up at locations that varied from the public library, to city departments, to community centers and private businesses. The goal was to collect 10,000 children’s books.

The day before book collections ended Magnuson was optimistic the collection goal would be reached.

“Books are coming in every day,” Magnuson said.

The last date of book collections was Nov. 9. Following collection efforts, donated books were sorted and readied to be delivered.

The Civic Center Library community room served as a book organization and packing site.

A volunteer work day was held Nov. 15 to sort and box the roughly 10,000 donated books. Library staff said volunteers stepped forward to pick up books from collection sites and help with the hands-on sorting.

“Library volunteers are perfect for this task,” Marie Town, Oceanside Public Library principal librarian of youth services, said.

Also helping out were college and high school students and community volunteers.

To complete the demanding task volunteers were given guidelines on how to separate donated books by age group appropriateness and usable quality. Piles of books were sorted and boxed for delivery within four hours.

The packaged books will be sent to kindergarten classrooms, community centers and outreach programs within the target neighborhoods of Eastside, Crown Heights and Libby Lake. Donated books will become part of a facility’s library or given directly to kids to take home and keep as their own.

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