From our Summer 2021 Newsletter, which you can read here!

Sue Jorgensen Library Foundation: Wyoming Reads

Every September, around 30 of Casper’s most dedicated educators, volunteers and other community members gather to make an important decision. There is lobbying; there are debates. Participants argue passionately, trying to persuade each other to choose one option over another. Then, at the end of this process, there is a vote.

The all-important outcome of this vote is a group of six books. These are the books that every first-grader in the state will choose from as part of Wyoming Reads, an annual literacy project created by the Sue Jorgensen Library Foundation.

Every May, children gather for the Wyoming reads celebration to receive their very own copy of the book they selected from the original six. What began as a small local celebration in 1996 has since spread across the entire state. This incredible growth is only possible because of donors like you.

As it has grown, the program has gone from success to success. In 2020, Wyoming Reads received a State Literacy Award from the Library of Congress. This year, founder John Jorgensen has been honored with the University of Wyoming’s Carol Mead Leaders in Literacy Award.

But for John, Wyoming Reads is not about the laurels it has collected. It is a deeply personal cause.

Sue’s Legacy

John’s late wife Sue was a remarkable educator. Holding a Ph.D. in special education, Sue created the University of Wyoming elementary education program at Casper College. Sue passed away tragically in 1996. Thinking of their five children, John recalls that he “wanted to come up with something for them to remember their mother by – not just being sad that they had lost their mom, but ‘here’s what she stood for.”‘

“Two of the things she was most passionate about were literacy and small children,” John says. A program like Wyoming Reads “was kind of an easy fit.”

Twenty-three years after that first event, Sue lives on in an extraordinary way. At this year’s celebration in Casper, a sunny day created a special air of excitement. At the Nicolaysen Museum, John told a fairy tale about the Good Queen Sue, ably acted out by high schoolers. Local celebrities read to groups of children at the Natrona County Library. Later, John formally received his Leaders in Literacy Award.

After a difficult year, this was an especially momentous day-and it was only possible because of you, because of John, and, of course, because of Sue.