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Project aims to give Watertown first-graders new books

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A brand new book will soon be in the hands of every Watertown City School District first-grader — all 364 of them.

That’s because local teachers and librarians started a partnership with the Northern New York Community Foundation, with a goal of raising $5,000 for the “A Book in Every Hand” project by the school year’s end.

“Reading is an important skill all children need,” said Maria T. Mesires, seventh-grade science teacher at Case Middle School. “The idea of getting a book that’s brand new — your own book — might further the idea of love of reading.”

She said the focus is on first-graders because children are at the age when they have some reading skills behind them, but they may not be proficient. As a middle-school science teacher, Ms. Mesires said, it was important for her to get involved in the project because reading is at the core of many subjects, including science.

While the Community Foundation is working in partnership with Ms. Mesires, English as a second language teacher Maureen Lavarnway, Case Middle School librarian Alison Spooner and Flower Memorial Library staff, the foundation will simply collect funds for and administer the fund.

Foundation Executive Director Rande S. Richardson said the nonprofit works with many groups to “help act as a conduit for their work.”

“Usually these types of efforts have a specific project goal in mind, including scholarships, and there is no need to create a separate nonprofit organization to accomplish it,” he said. “As with all the work we do, we welcome partnerships with passionate people who want to do good things for their community. We should be doing everything we can, whenever possible, to support and uplift grass-roots efforts such as this. Individual engagement can often lead to larger-scale efforts to address our community’s various needs.”

Ms. Mesires said she hopes early literacy efforts trickle down from this project.

Since the Common Core has been implemented, the 2014 project theme is “Diving into Nonfiction.” Nonfiction books are a part of the first-grade Common Core curriculum. Ms. Mesires said books about animals and transportation are just some examples of the types of books first-graders may receive.

To contribute, write a check payable to “Northern New York Community Foundation,” and mail it to NNYCF, c/o A Book in Every Hand, 120 Washington St., Suite 400, Watertown, N.Y. 13601.

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