January 15, 2014 - A generous gift to the Oxford Public Library is being used to enhance the educational experiences of local youth.
Kim Burean, head of youth services at the Oxford Public Library, displays some of the toys and games that will be part of the new literacy and special needs collection, paid for using funds from a $14,000 donation. Photo by C.J. Carnacchio. (click for larger version)
An anonymous donation of approximately $14,000 allowed the library's youth and teen departments to purchase a variety of materials that will aid groups ranging from special needs children to college-bound teenagers.
"We're just very appreciative of the fact that someone in our community thought highly enough of us to leave that legacy for generations to come," said Library Director Bryan Cloutier.
Kim Burean, director of youth services, used her department's portion of the money to create a "literacy and special needs collection."
It consists of more than 100 toys and games designed to teach children various skills and encourage them to play. The collection will help develop speech, language and reading skills, social skills, and fine and gross motor skills. There will be materials suitable for babies all the way up to teenagers, depending on their level of need.
Burean said this collection is meant let special needs children and their families know that "the library does care about you."
"It targets a population that often is underserved," she explained. "I think often special needs children are sort of marginalized and not given as much attention. We want the families and the children to feel that the library is a place for them Ė a place where they can find materials to enjoy.
"Our job is to serve the public and help with education and learning. Anything that we can do to promote and foster that for all children means we're doing our job better."
Burean noted that while a lot of the collection's toys and games are geared toward special needs children, it's not exclusively for them. She said many are simply educational items "that any child could enjoy and benefit from."
In addition to the literacy and special needs collection, the youth services department used some of the donation to create a special collection of books to aid parents and teachers, and revamp the heavily-used play area by stocking it with new educational toys.
All three additions to the youth department should be complete around the end of January or beginning of February.
"It's very, very exciting," Burean said. "It's something that we wouldn't have been able to do without this donation. It was definitely a wonderful gift that we were given."
She hopes the donor will be pleased with how his or her money was utilized.
Over in teen services, department Head Charli Osborne used some of the donation to expand the test preparation and study collection for college-bound high school students.
"We got a lot of ACT and SAT study books and DVDs," she said. "We also got a whole bunch of AP (Advanced Placement) study guides because more and more kids are taking those AP classes."
The department added about 15 sets of educational DVDs and about 40 books designed to help students prepare for these rigorous examinations, according to Osborne.
Prior to this, the teen department was lacking in this area. "We had some (materials), but they have a really high demand," Osborne explained. "I didn't have multiple copies or a broad enough collection to satisfy everything the kids are taking. This was a great opportunity to fill in a big gap in our collection."
Osborne noted it was especially significant to be able to add educational DVDs because they're "really expensive."
"It's not something that I would normally add a lot of because (nonfiction DVDs) don't circulate as well, but they're still needed," she said. "Some (subjects) are just easier to learn if you're watching (the lesson). It depends on the teen. Some people learn by doing. Some by watching. Some by listening. We're trying to cover all the bases that we can."
For students learning Chinese and American Sign Language, Osborne purchased dictionaries for those subjects.
She bought 10 sets of books to expand the "Battle of the Books" program to encompass all Oxford Middle School students, not just sixth-graders. It's a competition designed to encourage reading and enhance comprehension skills.
"It was a good addition to our collection," Osborne said. "We picked some newer titles and a couple classics, things that would appeal to both boys and girls."
Fifteen sets of books were also purchased to reestablish a book club program for at-risk girls housed on the Crossroads for Youth campus in Oxford.
"We hope to accommodate everyone at (Crossroads) Girls Center who wants to participate," Osborne said. "We've done this before and it was a popular program."
One item was purchased to benefit the library's youth, teen and adult departments, and that's a button-making machine
"You can make name tags, prizes and promotional materials for our programming," Osborne said. "It's really a cool thing."
Osborne is extremely grateful to the anonymous donor for making all this happen.
"I don't know who this person or family is, but thank you," she said. "It was a really nice thing to do."
CJ Carnacchio is editor for The Oxford Leader. He lives in the Village of Oxford with his wife Connie and daughter Larissa. When he's not busy working on the newspaper, he enjoys cigars/pipes, Martinis/Scotch, hunting and fishing.