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Thanks again to all of you for being here, and for listening to these great stories. I really hope you enjoyed them! How many of you love books, love reading? I certainly do -- and do you know why reading is important?

In looking at Bloomington’s economic future, the Wage Growth Task Force that I created last year determined that early childhood education is one of six pillars on which the city ought to focus. That’s right -- of all the work our City does (paving streets and putting out fires and helping people and planning for new buildings), helping kids learn and exposing them to reading and classrooms and education should be one of the most important priorities. Our community’s long-term success depends greatly on assuring that our youngest residents -- including you out there -- get a good start on life.

We have learned that every dollar initially invested in early education programs for children from low-income families is estimated to generate $4 to $11 in economic benefits over a child’s lifetime. Every dollar invested will make a huge difference in a child’s life -- and therefore in the life of our community.

Children who participate in early childhood education programs have a higher graduation rate in high school and college, score better on tests, request less public assistance, and enter the workforce at a higher pay rate than peers without similar opportunities.  As a result, these children generate more tax dollars in the long-term, effectively balancing the tax impact of the initial investment in education. In addition to boosting wage and tax income, children from low- to moderate-income families who participate in these pre-K programs require less special education and are less likely to repeat a grade or be victims of child neglect, thereby reducing the need for child welfare services or other services paid for with tax dollars.

And there are even more reasons reading is important.

A key metric for whether a child will graduate from high school is his or her third-grade reading level. Third-grade reading level is highly impacted by the number of words a child hears in his or her first two years of life. (How many words do you think you knew when you were two?) According to the U.S. Department of Education, up to 61% of low-income families do not have any books for their kids at home.

NO BOOKS! I wouldn’t like that at all.

So we’re so happy, and grateful to the Community Foundation of Bloomington and Monroe County, for donating this Little Free Library to Peoples Park. This Little Free Library will provide access to books, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, downtown at Peoples Park for readers of all levels, including kids.

That’s right -- you! -- will be able to come downtown and not only visit our phenomenal Monroe County library down the street, but you’ll also be able to read a book here at Peoples Park. Maybe, too, when you’re done enjoying some of your books at home, you’ll donate them right here to this Little Free Library so other kids can enjoy them.

In recognizing the long-term benefits from an initial investment in early childhood education, our community should acknowledge both the social and fiscal needs to develop and support affordable quality pre-K programs.

Therefore, I have proposed that we invest $100,000 to support quality early childhood education for lower-income families in our community. To do this, we’ll be collaborating with the Community Foundation and the Regional Opportunity Initiative and their major commitment to this issue, as well as with local providers. And we’ll encourage and welcome additional state resources to our community.

Thank you again for joining me this morning, for listening to stories and sharing my love of reading. I’m excited for your future -- for your education that will send you on a good path through life. Thank you again to Tina Peterson and the Community Foundation for the wonderful Little Free Library, to Therese Stosberg for her volunteering spirit, and to the Monroe County Public Library for bringing us such great resources today.

Now maybe we should all go home and read a good book!
 

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