Iowa’s First Lady is traveling the state on a book tour. Christy Vilsack is handing out books to kindergartners on her fifth annual reading promotion event, and says there’s a reason she goes to visit the youngest students.

She’s now given a book to “every fourth-grader, every third-grader, every second-grader, every first-grader, and now every kindergartner in Iowa, has received a book,” and Vilsack says 85-percent of a child’s brain development takes place before the age of six, so that kindergarten year, when many are around five years old, is an important one.

The author of the volume she selected this year is an Iowan. Frances Kennedy just finished a 30-year career teaching sixth grade in Dubuque, and this is a story she’d heard from her mother, a family tale handed down through the years. The story of a girl who grows cucumbers in her garden to buy a bathrub she’s set her heart on is titled “The Pickle Patch Bathtub.”

Mrs. Vilsack says when she visits libraries and mentions her selection, other Iowans come forth with stories of their own. She meets people of all ages, and talks with them about telling their family stories. The First Lady, a former schoolteacher, says she aims to reach not only the state’s beginning readers but their families.

The books, given out at schools, are taken home and she figures older brothers and sisters take a look, and the young owner reads that book to parents and other relatives. “The way we have it figured, about half the people in Iowa have been affected by the kindergarten book over the last five years.”

With the help of sponsors, there’ll be a copy of the book for every kindergartner in the state, and the First Lady is also bringing along gifts like small savings banks, and items like a big galvanized tub and pickle-sorting device to show kids she’s visiting with. For more on the book giveaway, surf to her website, “christy vilsack dot-org.”

Related web sites:
Iowa First Lady’s “Books for Kindergartners”