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Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White visits Waukegan Public Library

Annual Family Reading Night sponsored by the Illinois Literacy Foundation


November 23, 2018

Waukegan, IL – Waukegan Public Library welcomed Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White to Waukegan on Thursday, November 15 for a celebration of reading. The Family Reading Night program is a statewide bilingual storytime and craft event and is hosted annually by libraries across Illinois. Children had the opportunity to meet White, ask questions, and receive books from the Illinois Literacy Foundation. During the event, local families learned about the importance of reading together and their local library. They even had a chance to meet the library's pet bearded dragon.

"Reading prepares you to be a good citizen," White said, speaking to the group of children, parents and elected officials. Previous reading programs at the library have encouraged children and their parents to use books as a way to expand children's experiences of the world. The library's 2019 winter reading club asks children to learn about different holidays through reading.

"We believe that reading is a great way to understand and celebrate the diversity of our community," said Selina Gomez-Beloz, executive director, echoing White's sentiments. "We're honored to host Secretary White and appreciate his commitment to our services for children and especially for adults." The library's Adult Literacy Tutoring program, which is the only library-based program in Lake County to be funded through an Illinois Secretary of State grant, uses one-to-one and small group formats to help adults testing below the 9th grade level to make measurable gains in their reading, writing and/or math skills. In turn, this leads to improved economic, professional and personal outcomes.

White left the children with some thoughts about reaching goals, talking to them about how important it is to persevere through challenges. "If someone tells you that you can't achieve something, you say – 'just watch me!'" White said, earning applause from the little ones in the front row. He noted that it's the role of parents and community members to work together to help kids reach their dreams, and that family activities, like reading, can be part of that work.

White was introduced by Mayor Sam Cunningham, who explained White's responsibilities as secretary of state to the children, and spoke briefly about the purpose of the visit. An elected official making time to visit the library showed how important it is to make the most of the library's programs and services, he said. Waukegan's elected officials were well represented, with the group including Aldermen Edith Newsome, Patrick Seger, and David Villalobos, city officials Janet Kilkelly and David Patterson, Lake County Commissioners Mary Ross Cunningham and Angelo Kyle and Lake County Judges Luis Berrones and Charles W. Smith. Library Trustees Mary Stickels, board president, and Chetara Jenkins, as well as Waukegan Public Library Foundation board member Anton Mathews were also on hand to welcome White to Waukegan.

Cunningham also spoke to the children about how being a good citizen of Waukegan isn't just the responsibility of the aldermen and city officials present, but everyone, including Waukegan's youngest residents. Using the analogy of families, Cunningham helped the children to understand their role, encouraging them to be good friends and neighbors to their classmates at school. The children responded by inviting him to visit each of their schools!

White's visit to Waukegan came six months before the city is due to host the 2019 Illinois Reads Book Festival, which will see a number of authors visit Waukegan High School for book talks, book signings, activities and more.

This was the second Family Reading Night to have a focus on space this year, as the library hosts Explore Space!, an interactive exhibit presented in partnership with the American Library Association. "Engaging families together around the topic of space exploration is one of our goals for this exhibit, and it's great to see parents getting excited about science right alongside their children," said Gale Graves, education and literacy services manager. Programming for all ages around the Explore Space! exhibit continues through mid-December, with an upcoming trivia program on December 1 as the next opportunity for families to travel together beyond our solar system


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