By Kathy Collins

Earlier this month, the Children’s Board of Hillsborough County, Tampa-Hillsborough County Public Library, the Junior League of Tampa and WEDU PBS, unveiled the Mobile Interactive Literacy Opportunity known as MILO. This collaborative effort was made possible thanks to the influential work of Hillsborough County Commissioner, Sandra Murman.

MILO is a mobile interactive literacy bus that will encourage family reading, and lead to higher educational success for children. Murman said, “MILO is just one more example of how Hillsborough County values children, education and community. We are providing more than literacy; We are providing hope to the children in our county.”

Kelley Parris, executive director of the Children’s Board explained, “The goal of MILO is to give all children, regardless of where they live within Hillsborough County, access to books.”
According to the Children’s Board, studies have shown that the presence of books in the home is one of the greatest influences on a child’s academic success. However, the U.S. Census Bureau estimates that nearly 25 percent of children in Hillsborough County live in poverty. This means that the children who need books the most may not have regular access to them, and as a result may struggle on their path toward school readiness.

The MILO initiative will consist of monthly Saturday programs to be held at community locations throughout Hillsborough County, targeting rural and urban neighborhoods that have been designated as at risk or underserved. The program focuses on children ages three to eight years old and their caregivers.

Locally, MILO will be at the Seffner-Mango Library on Saturday, June 4 from 10 a.m.-1 p.m. It will be at the SouthShore Regional Library in Ruskin on Saturday, July 16 from 10 a.m.-1 p.m. It is set to be in Brandon at the Children’s Board Family Resource Center on Kingsway Rd. on Saturday, October 1 from 10 a.m.-1 p.m.

MILO events will be staffed by volunteers from the Junior League of Tampa. They will offer engaging interactive literacy stations. Children can select a book to take home, and families will have the opportunity to get a free Hillsborough County Public Library card.

In addition to books, each MILO event will feature a character from WEDU PBS shows and the children can partake in arts and crafts. For more information on MILO and to get a complete schedule for 2016-2017, contact Lorie Tonti at 273-3638.

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