Free books for 4-year-olds from Longmont made possible by donation – Boulder Daily Camera

A good book is like a good friend.

As Jim Newcomb said, “They will always be your friend.”

Newcomb, president of the Stewart Family Foundation, hopes a $100,000 contribution from the foundation to the Longmont Public Library will inspire an early love of reading and help more children find good books.

The foundation’s donation enabled the library to launch the Longmont Growing Readers program, which will distribute 100 books to any 4-year-old Longmont child who signs up. Four books per week for 25 weeks will be delivered free of charge to the child’s home. Books are available in English and Spanish or a combination.

Claire Studholme, Longmont’s librarian for the Children’s and Teenagers section, said families began signing up on Monday, with book distribution expected to begin in May.

“We’re thrilled to be able to help make it easier to get more books into children’s homes and books they can keep to hopefully encourage adults to build their libraries and keep reading, and building a positive relationship here with us at the library,” Studholme said.

Lila Jean Stewart died in 2018 and Bill Stewart in 2012, but their philanthropic efforts live on thanks to the Stewart Family Foundation. Newcomb said the gift fits the couple’s legacy of helping children.

He said Lila Jean and Bill Stewart cared deeply about efforts that could improve and enrich children’s lives. Among many contributions, they donated to the TLC Learning Center, a daycare and preschool in Longmont.

“We thought it would be a great idea to promote literacy in kids, especially preschoolers,” Newcomb said, “so they have an edge when they go to school.”

Newcomb described it as a “gift that just keeps coming” for children signed up to receive the books.

Librarian Valerie Taylor-Pierce uses a bubble machine during a bilingual story hour at the Longmont Library on Monday. (Matthew Jonas/staff photographer)

Studholme said the program’s goal is to help children develop an early love of reading by creating their own home library. She said the age of 4 is a crucial time for getting children interested in reading, developing their language skills and preparing them for kindergarten.

The program also aims to ensure that every child can have their own books.

“Particularly with this program, we wanted to try to reach families who don’t really have access to books in their homes, books to buy,” Studholme said.

The books the children will receive under the program cover a diverse mix of topics ranging from animals and insects to colors, food and math.

Studholme said the program, which is based in Fort Collins, would not have been possible to bring to Longmont without the donation from the Stewart Family Foundation.

As for the length of the program, Newcomb said the foundation hopes to keep it running for as long as possible.

Families can register anytime on the library website at: bit.ly/3JxYtej. Interested persons may also register in person at the Longmont Library, 409 Fourth Ave. Another option is to call the library to register by phone, at 303-651-8891.

Studholme and Newcomb said they hope to enroll as many children as possible in the program.

“It’s just a continuation of the (Stewarts) legacy,” Newcomb said.

Bubbles float through the air as librarian Valerie Taylor-Pierce reads during a bilingual story hour at the Longmont Library on Monday. (Matthew Jonas/staff photographer)

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