A Short History of Wyoming Reads

Cheyenne Frontier Days Rodeo Queens Jonna Brown and Rylee Anderson reading together at Laramie County Library during the 2016 Wyoming Reads celebration.

Tomorrow, first graders will gather at locations across the state to celebrate reading and take home their very own book to keep. It’s all part of the annual Wyoming Reads event, a program of the Sue Jorgensen Library Foundation. Ever wonder how this fantastic project got started? We took a look at the Wyoming Reads website for the story:

John Jorgensen established the Sue Jorgensen Library Foundation and the “Casper Cares, Casper Reads” celebration to honor his late wife’s commitment to literacy and books.

She was always very dedicated to children and to literacy. She believed that until someone can read, they can’t really do anything else.

– John Jorgensen

The Sue Jorgensen Library Foundation was created in 1996 to benefit libraries and advance the cause of childhood literacy in Wyoming. After making a significant contribution of books to the library of her children’s elementary school, the foundation learned of a community that held an annual drive to raise enough money to give every first grade child a book to encourage early enthusiasm for reading. With the support of local teachers, administrators, and parents, the “Casper Cares, Casper Reads” project was born.

Students checking out their “We Read” sunglasses at Wyoming Reads 2016.

A steering committee was formed in January 1999. Six hardback books of varying reading levels were selected to be distributed to each first grade classroom in the school district. Each student then had the opportunity to select the book of their choice. Orders were compiled and placed through an independent local bookstore. In June 1999, all of the Natrona County School District first graders gathered on the campus of Casper College for the very first CC/CR festival.

In 2006, the Casper Cares, Casper Reads program was taken to a new level, expanding statewide for the first time as “Wyoming Reads.” The program has since grown to include celebrations in all of Wyoming’s 23 counties, distributing books to over 8,000 first graders in 2016. Each year since 2006, the Governor has issued a proclamation declaring Wyoming Literacy Day to fall in conjunction with this valuable statewide celebration.

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