Book smart

. September 25, 2012.

One of life’s great pleasures is settling in with your little one with a book in hand, treasuring a journey of adventure to another time and place. However, that simple joy isn’t one everyone can enjoy. Nearly 8 percent of Hancock County residents have a problem with literacy.

“It’s not necessarily that they can’t read, but they may not be able to read at a level that lets them understand instructions from a doctor or at work, or understand how to operate a computer,” said Jeff Winkle, director of the Findlay-Hancock County Public Library.

Winkle helped organize the newly-formed group Literacy Coalition of Hancock County, working along with Findlay City and Hancock County Schools, the University of Findlay, Owens Community College, Read for L.I.F.E. (a local literacy mentoring group), the library and others to spearhead efforts to improve literacy in the area.

“Part of what we are doing is creating a collaboration network so all our efforts are as efficient as they can be,” he said.

It’s shocking to think that anyone could have a problem with literacy in Findlay. They are not alone.

“88 percent of children who have difficulty reading at the end of grade one display similar difficulties at the end of the grade four. 75 percent of students who are poor readers at the end of grade three will remain so in high school,” he said. “Statistics show children of poor readers are far more likely to be poor readers. “

Recently, the literacy group gathered in a daylong summit to plot their course. “We’re looking to carve out a pre-k early literacy center,” Winkle said.

What can you do to make sure this won’t be a problem in your own home?

“Read to your child every day. There is nothing [more] important,” he said.

It’s advice Winkle and his wife, a fellow librarian, followed with their own children when they were small.

“We’re a book family,” he said. “My daughters, long before they could read, would sit and hold books and turn
the pages.”

Winkle, who ran bookstore Winkle’s Open Book for 20 years, is a fan of hard-boiled mysteries, especially the ones that feature a knight-in-shining-armor hero living in a world where good triumphs over evil.

Reading makes you happier, he said.

“It’s good for the mind and makes you sharp but its also good for the soul. It’s peaceful and relaxing.” Along with reading books to your kids, Winkle advises adults to take advantage of every moment that comes your way to inspire your youngsters.

“You can be going through the supermarket and teach kids letters of the alphabet from cereal boxes,” he said.

Winkle hopes residents will take some time to volunteer to help with the coalition’s literacy efforts.

For information about participating in the literacy effort, visit Find out more about the library at or call 419-422-1712.