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University Neighborhood Partners Initiates Friday Youth Book Exchanges

January 21, 2004 — An ongoing book exchange for elementary school-age children will be launched this Friday, Jan. 23, from 1 until 4 p.m., by University Neighborhood Partners (UNP), a University of Utah office that brings together University and Westside resources for reciprocal learning, action and benefit. (A short program will be held this Friday at 2 p.m.) The Youth Book Exchange allows students in kindergarten through sixth grade to select a book in English or in Spanish from the UNP program, either to keep or to exchange at a later date for another volume. If the student chooses to keep the book, a different text may be exchanged. All elementary school-age children are welcome to participate, although the project will most likely serve students from surrounding Park View, Mountain View and Riley Elementary Schools. Exchanges will be held Fridays, from 1 until 4 p.m., at the UNP office, located at 1060 South 900 West. There is no cost to participate.

One of the goals of the Youth Book Exchange is to encourage young students to read as well as introduce them to higher education and build interest in attending college. Each week several fifth- and sixth-grade students, designated and trained as “book masters,” will facilitate the exchanges. “One of the great parts of the project is that it is a book exchange for kids, run by kids,” notes UNP Director Irene Fisher.

“The Youth Book Exchange is a great opportunity for students to become involved in their own community, as well as to learn about the resources provided by the University of Utah,” notes John Erlacher, principal of Mountain View Elementary.

Fisher concurs. “As part of the program we will bring the book masters to the University campus this spring, tour the Marriott Library and the campus, and share the message that if they stay intensely interested in books, they will some day be on a college campus. Our goal is to keep in touch with these students until they get there,” she says. “That’s the part that excites all of the involved librarians, too.”

Two weeks ago UNP gave the program a trial run. Mountain View Elementary book master Justin Valentine summed it up this way: “It’s just fun.”

Bobbie Kirby, principal at Riley Elementary School, says the new program provides “a wealth of opportunities” for her students, including a variety of reading materials and accessibility to books-the closest public library is downtown. “This program gives students the opportunity to exchange books they may have already read or obtain books they are not able to buy at the store. This is important, because the more they read, the better readers they become.”

A number of University and community groups and individuals developed the Youth Book Exchange project. In addition to the three participating elementary schools, Youth Book Exchange partners include several University of Utah departments, the U’s Marriott Library and the Associated Students of the University of Utah (ASUU) Diversity Board, which helped collect books. Volunteers from the America Reads and service-learning programs at the U’s Lowell Bennion Community Service Center have helped with the project. Donations of books and monetary contributions have also come from community members, including the Frost family (Frost’s Books), Gibbs Smith Publishing, Fiesta Mexicana, Inc. and the Consulate of Mexico (Salt Lake), Rainbow Books and, among others, an eagle scout who collected books as part of his eagle project.