Free books for Longmont 4-year-olds made possible through donation

Apr. 13 — A good book is a bit like a good friend.

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

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

The foundation’s donation has made it possible for the library to start the Longmont Growing Readers program, which will distribute 100 books to any Longmont 4-year-old who is signed up for it. Four books per week over the course of 25 weeks will be delivered to the child’s home at no cost. The books are available in English and Spanish or a combination.

Claire Studholme, Longmont librarian for the Children and Teens section, said families started signing up Monday, with book distribution slated to begin in May.

“We are so thrilled to be able to help facilitate getting more books in kids’ homes and books that they can keep so that it will hopefully encourage grownups to build their library and continue reading, and establish 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 through the Stewart Family Foundation. Newcomb said the gift falls in line with the couple’s legacy of helping children.

He said Lila Jean and Bill Stewart cared deeply for efforts that could improve and enrich the lives of children. Among many contributions, they donated to the TLC Learning Center, a Longmont childcare and preschool.

“This, we thought, would be a great idea to promote literacy among children, especially preschool,” Newcomb said, “so they have an advantage when they go to school.”

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

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

The program also seeks to make sure every child can have their own books.

“Particularly with this program, we wanted to try and reach families that do not really have access to books in their home, books to buy,” Studholme said.

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

Studholme said the program, which is based out of Fort Collins, would not have been possible to bring to Longmont without the Stewart Family Foundation’s gift.

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

Families can sign up at any time on the library’s website at: bit.ly/3JxYtej. Those interested can also sign up in person at the Longmont library, 409 Fourth Ave. Another option is calling the library to sign up over the phone, at 303-651-8891.

Both Studholme and Newcomb said they hope to get as many children signed up for the program as possible.

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

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