Skip to main content

Young Readers

Since 2014, SDHC has gifted a book to third graders across the state to ignite a love for reading and open the door to endless possibilities.

Young Readers Program

Through partnerships with South Dakota’s educators, this program is shaping powerful learning habits to increase our youth’s reading achievement levels when they’re the most impressionable through books ownership, author interactions, and class materials.

We began this program with just a few thousand books and this year we delivered over 14,000 to 381 schools! Without the support of sponsors and donors like you, we would have never received such a remarkable milestone of providing a book to every third grader in South Dakota. In addition, this support has allowed us to form lasting partnerships that help us equip educators with invaluable class materials such as classroom guides, author videos, and author interactions at the Festival of Books.

As we look ahead to the coming months, we’re excited to announce

our goal of raising $106,500 for 2024’s Young Readers One Book!

Let’s come together and create a brighter future for our children and empower them to dream big by visiting through the button below. Please help us in continuing this program in 2024!

Young Readers Program
Young Readers One Book 2024

Watch 2023’s Young Readers One Book author engage with students across South Dakota!

The 2024 Young Readers One Book selection is a bind-up of the first two books in the award-winning Juana and Lucas series – Juana & Lucas and Juana & Lucas: Big Problems – written and illustrated by Juana Medina. The books are based on Medina’s experiences growing up in Bogotá, Colombia, but fictionalized for simplicity and clarity.

While the South American setting might not be familiar to many South Dakota youth, Juana’s experiences of dealing with changes at school and within her family are universal. Sharing those stories with new audiences is one of Medina’s goals, as she told We Need Diverse Books in 2021.

“The most thrilling thing for me is seeing how so many readers have been able to identify with Juana; they might not be Colombian, or struggle with learning a language, or wear pigtails, or have a dog, or love soccer, or any other singular details that pertain to the character,” Medina said. “But for children to find themselves within the pages of Juana & Lucas is the most extraordinary reward I can think of, not only as an author and illustrator, but as a reader that didn’t find herself in the pages of a book until her late 20s. “

Combining book ownership and face-to-face visits with authors and artists creates the kind of lifelong excitement for reading and writing that we want to achieve.

Why Third-Graders?

When children move into fourth grade lacking an adequate foundation to be independent, they have a higher likelihood of dropping out of high school, reducing their potential earnings and chances for success.

We focus on third graders to help shape powerful learning habits and increase our youth’s reading achievement levels when they’re the most impressionable. Through the Young Readers One Book program, they receive their own book and author interactions while their educators receive class materials to support the reading curriculum.

2022 National Assessment of Education Progress (NAEP) shows a 4% increase in South Dakota’s non-proficient fourth-grade readers. 

Young Readers Festival authors can be found on the Festival of Books page.

68% of Our Youth

Read Below a Proficient Level

Our partnership with South Dakota educators, librarians, organizations, and curriculum staff helps SDHC select age-appropriate books, distribute books and supplemental materials, and collaborate to arrange school visits with authors and illustrators.

Together we are shaping powerful learning habits to increase our youth’s reading achievement levels when they’re the most impressionable through book ownership, author interactions, and class materials.

As an extension of our established South Dakota Festival of Books and One Book South Dakota programs, SDHC launched the Young Readers One Book program in 2014 to increase literacy excitement and inspire children’s imagination. The Young Readers Festival hosts at least a dozen children’s/YA authors and illustrators to speak directly to students in schools and local cultural centers after they’ve received their free books and classroom materials. Including a video made with Black Hills Reads, and SFEC, where students get to interact with the author and educators can use as part of their curriculum!

Our program’s success is only made possible through the generous donations we’ve received over the years. We’re grateful for the many supporters who have joined us on this incredible journey. While we’ve gone from delivering a few thousand books to over 14,000 across the state in 2023, we acknowledge that our mission goes beyond these contributions. As we work to inspire young minds, we invite others to join us in our efforts to profoundly impact and inspire our youth in 2024 and beyond.

Young Readers Festival authors can be found on the Festival of Books page.

young reader