Donor helps Prime Time program come to Oak Harbor Library

Betty Saul, Ithaca NY High School,  Assistant Librarian – 1970 to 1989.

Learning how to read opens possibilities.

Learning why to read opens minds.

On Oct. 3, a group of Oak Harbor children and their families will begin learning more about both how and why to read. Prime Time Family Reading program is a collaboration between Oak Harbor Library, Humanities Washington, Oak Harbor Public Schools and the generosity of one local donor.

The program is a series of six weekly evening sessions at the Oak Harbor Library. Each session, a skilled storyteller reads a story. Then, with the help of a scholar, the group discusses the ethical and cultural themes in the book. “Children’s books aren’t always child’s play,” according to the Humanities Washington website. “They can inspire important philosophical discussions on topics such as fairness, greed, courage, and compassion.”

School district staff invited 25 students and their families to participate.

“We focused on second- and third-graders,” said Kari Chwirka, of Oak Harbor Elementary School. “The families were recommended by their teachers.”

Research has shown that reading ability at third grade is critical for success later in school and life, according to Jane Lopez-Santillana, a librarian at the Oak Harbor Library. Humanities Washington says the program can inspire active thought and conversation in families through reading, boost long-term academic achievement and build connections with libraries.

This is the first time the statewide program has come to Oak Harbor.

“The program is free to the families, but there are costs,” Lopez-Santillana said.

The program includes library staff, local educational professionals and a staff member from Humanities Washington. The project is funded by grants from the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) and the George and Sheila Moy Saul Family Fund of the Whidbey Community Foundation.

The George and Sheila Moy Saul Family Fund of the Whidbey Community Foundation contributed $29,350 to help fund the program.  The Saul family contribution is made in honor of Betty Saul, George Saul’s deceased mother, a longtime Ithaca, New York High School assistant librarian from 1970-89.

“My mother was very involved in early learning programs and would be extremely excited about the potential for this program to help youngsters read,” George Saul said. “In her eyes, being able to read constituted the keys to the magic kingdom. This program would certainly bring an enthusiastic smile to her face.”

Saul said he believes strongly that learning to read is a foundational building block in the life-long learning process. He urged others to join him in supporting the program.

“Our community has many retirees who want to make an impact on the community and help youth,” he said. “An appealing aspect of the Oak Harbor Prime Time Family Reading Program is that anyone can step forward and help.”