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Library staff focuses on helping kids get ready to read and succeed

The mission of Elkhart Public Library doesn’t end at the front doors.

The library is dedicated to serving our diverse communities outside our five physical buildings. For years, the Extension Services Department has visited homebound individuals and made stops at area retirement communities and apartment complexes. Young People’s Services regularly go to classrooms throughout the school year.

Now, others on staff are finding enjoyment in getting into the community and reading.

Through Real Men Read and Spring Into Reading, presented by United Way of Elkhart County, library workers are getting in front of hundreds more children in the greater Elkhart area every year.

Tricia Meagher, who works the checkout desk downtown, says it’s a chance to participate in efforts to make sure every child is ready to read by Grade 3, a key strategic initiative EPL adopted for 2019-21.

“I really liked getting a chance to go into the community. We don’t always get to see as many kids (at the main checkout desk), and when we do, we only get to see them one-on-one,” says Meagher, who took part in Spring Into Reading. “A chance to give back to the community is nice. As an adult, it’s hard to find the time to do those things and it always feels good.”

April Neddeau, assistant circulation supervisor, also participated in Spring into Reading. She says it’s important to share the work of the library with people outside the building.

“I don’t think enough people use the library, and I think that we have a lot to offer,” she says.

Nathan Claeys, the library’s human resources generalist and a participant in Real Men Read, says it’s good to be a role model for kids and emphasize the importance of reading.

“It’s important for children to see people from all walks of life embrace that reading is important,” says Claeys. “Because even though I don’t have children, we all benefit from a well-educated society.”

The student-reader relationship always is lasting.

“I stayed for lunch sometimes with them because they were so sweet and so adorable,” Meagher says.

Reference clerk Erika Moore, another participant in Spring into Reading, echoes that sentiment. “The kids were very attentive and inquisitive. I would love to do it again,” says Moore.