FARGO - A gift from thousands of children's book creators hopes to help turn a page in local children's education.

The Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators recently donated 1,000 books to the Indian Education Program of Fargo and West Fargo Public Schools. The books will be given out to children in the area to encourage them to read and learn.

Hundreds of the books were handed out Oct. 8 at the Fargo and West Fargo Public Schools' Indigenous Peoples' Day powwow.

The program was one of two in the country to be awarded such a gift. The Books For Readers Book Drive taps some of the 24,000 SCBWI members, including authors like Judy Bloom and Kwame Alexander, to donate titles. This year saw 300 nominations, with the Indian Education Program emerging as one of two winners.

"It's a big honor," said Melody Staebner, coordinator of the Indian Education Program, which advocates for school success for students from more than 30 area tribes. "For our students, it encourages family literacy at home. This will help build up family libraries."

Lin Oliver, executive director of SCBWI, says that in some areas known as "a book desert," there are as few as one book for every 300 children.

A young reader looks at one of the books being given out Monday, Oct. 8, 2018 in Fargo. Amber Mattson / Special to The Forum
A young reader looks at one of the books being given out Monday, Oct. 8, 2018 in Fargo. Amber Mattson / Special to The Forum

The end result isn't just to encourage kids to read, but to help them get an education.

"Reading is key to continuing education, and kids with reading difficulties are much more prone to drop out," Oliver said, adding that reading to children in infancy helps fluency.

Reading off the page also stimulates different parts of the brain more than being read to, said Linda Sue Park of the SCBWI, who attended the book giveaway.

The author of the Newbery Medal-winning "A Single Shard" sat in the stands as she watched kids crowd the tables, looking for a book to bring home.

"It's wonderful and heart-rending," she said.

While the books are the kids' to bring home, the hope is that they'll share with not only siblings and friends, but also adults.

"A good children's book can be enjoyed by everybody," Park said.

Sarah Altepeter, mother of Olivia, 7, and Ariana, 4, watched as her kids found their books.

"They love to read," the Fargo woman said. "It definitely encourages it for children. It's an excellent program."