Kindergarteners at Lincoln Heights Elementary received a special invitation to explore the world of books on Wednesday.

The Lied Scottsbluff Public Library kicked off its annual Kinder-Carding program earlier this week. Librarians will continue visiting Scottsbluff classrooms through next week to encourage students to go “bonkers for books” and get their first library card, children’s librarian Deb Carlson said.

During Wednesday’s stop at Lincoln Heights, Carlson and Mackenzie Watson, the young adult librarian, read a story to the class called “Here Comes the Big, Mean Dust Bunny,” by Jan Thomas.

The book tells the humorous story of four little dust bunnies through rhymes as they teach a big, bully dust bunny to play nice.

“That was funny, wasn’t it?” Carlson asked the students. “We have all kinds of funny books for you to check out at the library.”

They also talked about other things the children could check out, including books accompanied by audio and movies, which had the children chattering excitedly.

The women explained that each child would get a Kinder-card, which is an invitation to go to the library and sign up for their first library card. All kindergarteners are invited to participate, even if they don’t attend school in Scottsbluff, including home-schooled students, said Carlson. Parents just need take their students up to the circulation desk and let them know they are a kindergartener.

When kids sign up for their library card, they’ll leave with a bag stuffed with goodies that says “Bee A Reader.”

Included in the bag are a yo-yo, bouncy ball, ruler, pencil and a “Bonkers for Books” bopper headband. Students can also go on a tour of the library and learn more about what resources are available to them there. Parents will receive coupons provided by Kinder-Carding sponsors Perkins and the Star-Herald. Kindergarteners who already have a library card can also stop by and pick up their prizes.

Additionally, the first 100 kindergarteners that get their library card will receive a second special invitation.

“They will be invited to our Out-of-this-World Build-an-Alien party,” Carlson said.

The dates and times for the alien building workshops will be included in the invitation. During the event, kids will have a chance to make a purple alien Build-a-Bear style.

“They’ll put in their stuffing and their heart,” Carlson said. “They’ll get to do a birth certificate and name their alien, too.”

Watson said she expected the aliens to be a big draw for the students, giving them the chance to create more young readers.

There is no cost to get a library card or to participate in the Kinder-Carding program, which resulted in more than 100 kindergarteners getting their library cards last year. After the first presentation on Tuesday at Longfellow Elementary, 16 students showed up at the library after school to get their cards.

Carlson said that students don’t have to go in immediately — they qualify for as long as they are kindergarteners — although those who want an alien should hurry in to be part of the first 100.

The Kinder-Carding program began in 1994, when Carlson was browsing materials that had been sent out from other libraries across the country.

“We had wanted a program or something to get kids in the door to get their first cards,” Carlson said. “There was something from a library in Ohio in the packet.”

She said it is important to encourage students to begin visiting the library and embracing books as early as possible.

“We know that children who start on the path to reading are stronger students, better citizens and just more successful in life,” she said, adding that it also helps them feel more comfortable going to the library when they get older.

Carlson decided to reach out to the library in Ohio to get more information and then went to work on developing a local program.

“We couldn’t take the whole thing on without sponsors,” she said.

After contacting the publisher of the Star-Herald at the time, she’d found one.

“He said, ‘We’ll do it, but I have one more step for you,’” Carlson said. “He wanted me to go into the classrooms and talk to the students. I thought it was a great idea.”

So, for the last 26 years, she has. At first, she’d go into individual classrooms but that meant shorter presentations. Now, classes are combined so the librarians can spend more time interacting with students.

“Kindergarten is the best time for us to do this because they’re just learning to read and they’re excited,” Watson said.

Meeting the librarians often pumps the students up even more, teacher Lori Blehm said.

“It makes them want to learn to read,” she said. “Mrs. Carlson puts the love of reading in kids and any time we can get them excited about it, they benefit.”

We're always interested in hearing about news in our community. Let us know what's going on!

Kamie Stephen is a reporter with the Star-Herald. She can be reached at 308-632-9041 or via email at kamie.stephen@starherald.com.

Kamie Stephen is a reporter with the Star-Herald. She can be reached at 308-632-9041 or via email at kamie.stephen@starherald.com.

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