Mobile libraries bring love of reading back to Omaha classrooms

Nonprofit DIBS for Kids won an award from the Library of Congress for their approach
Recent numbers show students' English skills have gotten worse. One nonprofit is re-engaging our youth in a creative way to fight that.
Published: Sep. 28, 2022 at 5:50 PM CDT
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OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) - The excitement of picking a new book. The smell. The crackle of turning a page.

DIBS for Kids is bringing back to our students what was lost with virtual learning.

“Everything was on an iPad or a computer. I think what we’re seeing is a lot of really good re-engagement with an actual physical book, and that there’s excitement over that. Something that they can hold. Something that they can take home. They’re opening [them]. They’re looking at the pictures,” said Marie Kovar, DIBS for Kids Director of School Support.

This Omaha-based nonprofit encourages literacy. Something kids especially need since English proficiency in Omaha Public Schools went down during the pandemic by five percentage points, according to the Nebraska Department of Education.

“Third-grade literacy is a goal that you’ll see a lot in a lot of school districts because it is an indicator of future academic success,” said Angie Miller, executive director of DIBS for Kids.

Studies show that a third grader’s ability to read can predict their likelihood of getting a diploma. Kovar explained how the system works: six bins with about two hundred books in each classroom.

“We have a wide variety for students who might need an easier book to read as well as up to chapter books and higher level picture books,” Kovar said.

Kids scan a QR code in the classroom and take a book home each night.

This approach won the nonprofit an award from the U.S. Library of Congress. It’s an international award that recognizes organizations for “successful practices in literacy and reading promotion.” They’re the first in Nebraska to win an award from the Library of Congress.

DIBS for Kids provides mobile libraries to 200 teachers, teachers that don’t need to spend money out of their own wallets to fill a classroom library. The organization is able to reach 5,000 students across eight school districts.

“We learned that physical books is what we’re really good at, and that’s what our students really need. So what we have done is emphasized that physical distribution,” Miller said.

Most of the kids are from Omaha Public School, but more are to join the program as DIBS for Kids looks to expand into other schools, bringing a library to every classroom.