Read Aloud Program
If we could get our parents to read to their preschool children even just fifteen minutes a day,
we could revolutionize the schools.
Helen Love Former Superintendent Chicago Schools
But how can you read to your child if you don’t have any books?
A large number of Bay Area children do not have books or other literature written for children in their homes and live with parents who are not accustomed to using libraries. These children enter school severely less prepared to learn to read than many of their peers.
An ongoing goal of our project is to work with other organizations to encourage parents to read to their children. Through our Read Aloud Program we have given thousands of books to programs that are actively promoting reading aloud and need children’s books to give to families who cannot afford to buy them. As part of our Read Aloud Program, in 1998 we initiated a coalition of San Francisco Bay Area organizations that are particularly concerned with encouraging parents to read to their very young children.
Our Read Aloud Coalition meets regularly to discuss parent training methods and to exchange information, including places where parents are able to go to learn to read. We also choose titles of books for Children’s Book Project to purchase. (The Children’s Book Project does not receive enough donated books written for infants and toddlers, multicultural books or books written in Spanish or Chinese to meet the needs of the many hundreds of families served each month by our Read Aloud Coalition.) All of the participants work directly with families with very young children and most make regular home visits.
At the end of our Coalition meetings, Children’s Book Project provides both new and used books for the participants to select and give to families. During home visits, the caseworkers and nurses stress to parents the importance of sharing books with their children and give them suggestions on ways to do this. They then give the parents books to read. The pediatricians give books to parents during office visits. Books are also given to parents during parenting workshops.
Presently ten organizations, in addition to Children’s Book Project, participate in our Read Aloud Coalition. Seven of these organizations are located in San Francisco — Asian Perinatal Family Support Services, Golden Gate Regional Center (with services in San Mateo and Marin), Homeless Prenatal Program, SFUSD Hilltop Pregnant Minors Program, Teenage Pregnancy and Parenting Project (TAPP) and YES WE CAN Urban Asthma Partnership at SFGH and Youth Community Developers. The two remaining organizations are Berkeley Public Health and Unity Council Early Head Start in Oakland.
The feedback we receive about our Read Aloud Program has been very gratifying. Parents are reading the books to their children. Many parents, a great deal of whom are teenagers, have said that reading aloud has also helped their own reading skills. Participants in our Read Aloud Coalition tell us that having books to give as gifts helps to build a trusting relationship between their clients and themselves. The books also provide an incentive for parents to come to workshops.
The single most important activity for building knowledge — for eventual success in reading
is reading aloud to young children.
The National Commission on Reading
For years through the generosity of an anonymous donor, Children’s Book Project was able to provide funds for Bay Area children to take a trip to a local book store and select and purchase their own books. For many, this was their first time visiting a bookstore. Being able to select books of personal interest and take them home provides an incentive for reading for these children who often have no books of their own in their homes. This was a very successful program. We would love to have someone bring it to life again.
Books for Youth Program
Learning to read requires practice. The goal of this program is to help older boys and girls improve their reading skills by providing them with books and other reading materials that match their interest. Nationwide, the Bluford Series is at at the top of many lists. With topics, themes and situations chosen to engage students’ real-life experiences, the books are more likely to keep students’ interest. The idea, educators say, is to whet their appetites for a far broader array of literature.
If you get them to read, you can get them to be scholars.
Paul Langan Author Bluford Series
These valuable programs could be expanded with additional funding.