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Outreach begins early

Outreach begins early

Volunteers brainstorm on early literacy and community matters

By Willie Kiernan

The Cazenovia School District reports that 20 percent of Kindergartners are not ready for school.

"What do children need to be successful to begin school?" said Betsy Kennedy, Cazenovia Library Director.

The short answer is interaction, which includes vocabulary, narrative skills, book smarts, print awareness and phonics. All these areas are addressed in the Story Hour programs for toddlers and pre-schoolers that the library offers. The problem is getting all pre-schoolers to attend.

"We've tried and tried, but we're not getting our target population for Story Hour," Kennedy said.

About 20 people got together in the Cazenovia Library Community Room last Thursday afternoon to discuss the possibilities of an early literacy outreach program. The library made a similar attempt two years ago with little success.

"We tried to get the word out but only two or three kids came; so it never took off," said Cynthia Bushnell, a Story Hour reader. "We brainstormed with Gigi Redmond and Burton Street to reach more children."

Redmond, the director at Caz Cares, could be instrumental in the formation of a new outreach program. In the new location near McDonalds, the non-profit food and clothing pantry uses only the back half of the building at 101 Nelson St. There is space available for community oriented projects in the front and many young mothers are visiting already for regular services.

"Caz cares is doing a great job with food and clothing, but if that's all we do, it'll always continue," said Bob Hood, a board member of Caz Cares. "We've been handing out food and clothing for 25 years and we could do it for another 25 years."

Hood, who has spent years and money in Haiti, has been dealing with poverty and illiteracy for years.

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