Story hour at Kirkwood Public Library had a guest reader on Thursday. Missouri Secretary of State Jason Kander stopped by as part of a tour spotlighting the early literacy initiative "Racing to Read."
Earlier this year, public libraries throughout Missouri were invited to apply for a portion of the $300,000 in federal funds set aside by the Secretary of State’s office to help children enter Kindergarten ready to learn to read.
Kander said people seem to be excited by the program because they know how important early exposure to words and reading are for the future success of children.
“I have a ten-month-old son, and I know firsthand that sometimes you run out of stuff to just say to them so that they hear more words, to the point where you can get a little light-headed if you don’t have something like a book there to help you," Kander said.
In Kirkwood, the library used the funds it received to create an iPad station for toddlers and panels that let kids interact with letters, stories and shapes. It also purchased books to give the children who attend story hour.
Twenty-nine public library systems are participating in the early literacy program, including those in St. Louis City, St. Louis County, University City and St. Charles.
As Secretary of State, Kander is also gearing up for the primary elections August 5. He said that he hopes that a lot of voters turn out at the polls next month.
But that has not historically been the case during August primary elections. Two years ago, only 23-percent of Missouri's four-million registered voters cast ballots in the primary. Kander says his office is working to increase that number.
"In the recent election in Afghanistan where the Taliban was threatening to attack polling places they had a 58-percent voter turnout,” said Kander. “And so when you consider something like that, with that perspective, really you would think that in this country we would at least be able to meet that standard, in terms of turnout."
There are several controversial statewide ballot issues that could drive voters to the polls on August 5th, including a three-fourths cent sales tax increase, and a "right-to-farm" constitutional amendment. In St. Louis County, the high-profile Democratic primary for county executive could also drive people to the polls.