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Ely Public Library receives this year’s Iowa Literacy Award for its summer reading initiative


Ely Public Library, 1595 Dows St, Ely. — Izabela Zaluska/Little Village

Ely Public Library Director Sarah Sellon wanted summer reading to be about more than just kids receiving prizes for reading books. She hoped to do something more meaningful that would have a bigger impact in the Linn County city of just over 2,200.

So, part of the library’s summer reading program for the past five years has been Reading Support, an eight-week initiative where children get paired with volunteers from the community and have a chance to work one-on-one to improve their reading and participate in additional literacy activities.

That program has now earned Ely Public Library statewide recognition as the 2019 recipient of the Iowa Literacy Award. It’s an honor awarded annually by the Iowa Center for the Book to an organization that has made an “outstanding contribution to increasing literacy in Iowa.”

“Research shows that kids who maintain reading skills over the summer are more successful in school,” Nancy Medema, coordinator for the Iowa Center for the Book, said in a news release. “This is a perfect way for Ely Public Library to show its commitment to the community. We are thrilled that this program is supported by the library and dedicated volunteers who are committed to helping students succeed.”

The library will also receive $2,000 to continue its literacy efforts. Sellon said the plan is to use the money to expand the library’s collection of dyslexia-friendly books, as well as add books to other popular and heavily used collections.

Ely Public Library director Sarah Sellon said the library plans to expand the library’s collection of dyslexia-friendly books, as well as add books to other collections. — Izabela Zaluska/Little Village

During the five years of the Reading Support program, the library has worked with 240 children and more than 300 volunteers. The children who have participated have read for 1,677 hours, according to Sellon.

“It’s an affirmation for the work that we put into it,” Sellon said about receiving the award for the Reading Support initiative.

Reading Support attracts kids and volunteers from all over Linn and Johnson counties, including Marion, Cedar Rapids and Solon, Sellon said.

“The best thing is that it really pulls the whole community together,” she said.

The Iowa Center for the Book is a program of the State Library of Iowa, which is dedicated to improving library services in the state. The Iowa Center for the Book is also an affiliate of the Library of Congress Center for the Book.

Iowa’s state librarian Michael Scott will be in Ely on Friday, Oct. 25 to present the award and check to library staff. The reception will be held at Ely Public Library, 1595 Dows St, and is scheduled to begin at 6:30 p.m. It is open to the public.


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