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Youth literacy partnership between Citizen Potawatomi Nation and Pioneer Library System

The days of Highlights magazines in the waiting rooms of pediatricians may be long gone. In their stead, several departments at Citizen Potawatomi Nation are partnering with the Pioneer Library System to provide educational reading materials to children visiting select Tribal facilities.

In mid-September, staff from the Pioneer Library System unloaded approximately 1,500 children’s books for youth visiting the CPN Women, Infants and Children office and healthcare facilities.

CPN WIC and health facilities provide children’s books to all patients and visitors under the age of 4 thanks to a large donation by the Pioneer Library Foundation.

“This donation is a celebration of our Summer Learning Challenge success,” Pioneer Library System’s Peggy Cook said. “We value the good work that CPN does in providing health services to families with young children, and with education issues. We appreciate the strength of the Nation as a partner, and appreciate that they are interested in helping promote literacy and building pre-school learning skills for young children. And, we’re excited to share free books with young children.”

The books were provided as part of a Pioneer Library System Foundation grant that promotes reading and early childhood education. In addition to the PLSF, the books come from outside donors like the Oklahoma Electric Cooperative Foundation and Cynthia Cooper. They are intended for children as old as 4 who visit the CPN WIC office and CPN health clinics in Pottawatomie County. Additional non-CPN locations including clinics in McLain and Cleveland Counties also received books.

Cook reached out to CPN Tribal Vice-Chairman Linda Capps and CPN Education Department Director Tesia Zientek to inquire of the Tribe’s interest in being a distributor.

“In Pottawatomie County, the library already has a relationship with the county health department and is already distributing a free health book through an Avedis funded grant, so we were interested in the opportunity to reach more children and share more books with more young children across the county,” Cook said.

Vice-Chairman Capps coordinated with CPN Health Services the and CPN Department of Education to find a way to distribute the donations to youth visiting Tribal properties such as both CPN health clinics, the CPN WIC office and both child development centers.

“I think it’s extremely important to have these books available for children who are visiting our health clinics and WIC office,” Zientek said. “We know being exposed to books helps students get a good head start in life, so the earlier they can do that, the better.”

Zientek estimates that the current donation will supply books for the next year. After the early-September delivery, the Tribe immediately began distributing the books. Workers will hand one out when they encounter a client or patient with a young child. Some non-CPN facilities are receiving some as well, including the health departments in McLain and Cleveland Counties with approximately 2,200 and 350 books, respectively.