Grant promotes reading, smiles and stuffed puppies for Macksville children

Jennifer Stultz
Pratt Tribune
Macksville City Library director Jodi Suiter reads a special story to Macksville area preschoolers for a special event Wednesday at the Macksville Grade School.

MACKSVILLE — Children at the Macksville City Library’s Kansas Reads to Preschoolers program last week were thrilled to choose and stuff their own toy puppies after absorbing a book by Eric Litwin at Macksville Grade School, thanks to a $500 grant from Midwest Energy Inc.

“I wasn’t sure we would be able to have this program with all the pandemic issues going on,” said Macksville City Library director Jodi Suiter. “But they needed a smile, we all did, and thankfully it all worked out. It was amazing.”

Kansas Read to Preschoolers is a statewide initiative encouraging early childhood literacy. The Kansas State Library’s 16th annual one-book/one-state reading initiative, highlights the importance of reading to children and promotes reading to all Kansas children from birth through age 5. Through the statewide program, parents, librarians and caregivers are encouraged to read the chosen title during a selected week and month. This year's title, “Groovy Joe: Ice Cream and Dinosaurs,” by Litwin, is available digitally through the state library’s digital book eLending site, Bookflix.

Recognizing that not all preschoolers would likely have the means to download the digital book, Macksville librarian, Jody Suiter, wanted to find a way to get physical copies of the books into the hands and homes of all the local preschoolers.

“I applied for the grant from Midwest Energy back in August,” Suiter said. “At that time, I didn't know if we would be able to have an in-person program, or if it would be held remotely. I tried to plan something that would be fun, hands-on, and educational in-person or at home. I found puppy kits that the kids could stuff, and read to. I was prepared to deliver the kits and books door to door, but thankfully, we were able to meet in school with masks and social distancing.”

Grant funds were used to purchase a copy of the book for each family, as well as puppy kits for each student. Funds also enabled the library to purchase 26 new sturdy board books for check out at the library. Midwest Energy's Community Fund benefits charitable, educational and nonprofit organizations in the Midwest Energy service area.

“The students were good listeners and ready for the roar of each dinosaur in the ’Ice Cream and Dinosaurs’ book. And they joined in each time Groovy Joe stated ’it's awesome to share,’ ” Suiter said.

The preschoolers were also more than willing to share good homes and hugs with the new puppies that they chose and stuffed and named. Some of the names they gave their new puppies were Snowdrop, Bobbie, Sparkler, Pencil, Happy, I Zebra, Green and Callie B.

“The finished puppies made groovy dance partners when we all listened to Litwin's 'The Groovy Dance.' Puppies were dancing high and low, here and there, and jumping in and out, with groovy moves to spare,” Suiter said.

To listen to Groovy Joe stories online (and Pete the Cat books, also by Eric Litwin) go to English and Spanish versions are available.