There are numerous studies about the importance of promoting reading for fun early on in a child’s life. For starters, it develops vocabulary, helps with concentration, and supports language and imagination development. However; cultivating a love of reading can be a challenge. If a youth’s main reading experience is associated with school, it can feel more like a chore. Access to books, particularly ones that are culturally relevant, is another obstacle. Fortunately, there are creative community programs developed that not only encourage kids to curl up with Dr. Seuss or A. A. Milne, but make books available to them.
One solution is to provide books in locations where kids are likely to visit. That is the theory behind Barbershop Books, a nonprofit based in New York City. As statistics illustrated the widening achievement gap for young black boys, former teacher, Alvin Irby, was determined to find a way to provide them with access to culturally relevant, high-interest books. His solution: create child-friendly reading spaces in barbershops. Their tagline says it all, “Well Groomed. Well Read.” Barbershop Books Photo above by Kristine Brown.
Including the family in a child’s experience can help reinforce reading at home. Fort Lauderdale, Florida’s Broward Center for the Performing Arts Reading Readiness Through the Theater program “offers a learning experience for the whole family.” The initiative, which focusses on students in Head Start programs, includes books for the home library, an outing for the family to literature based theater, as well as training for parents on strategies to promote reading at home. Combining the theater with books provides an exciting way to make reading come to life.
Recently an 11-year-old, Marley Dias, looked around and noticed her school’s library books “were all about white boys or dogs, or white boys and their dogs.” The stories almost never had main characters who were black. She set off on a mission to collect 1,000 books reflecting diversity; however, she did not collect 1,000, she collected 4,000.
Then there is Ryan Traynor, the 15-year-old who realized the importance of books while reading to Head Start kids for a Boy Scout badge. After learning that not all children in his area have access to books, he set off to make a difference. A 25,000 book difference. Ryan collected books in his back yard and distributed them to literacy programs, schools, shelters, wherever there was a need. But Ryan was not done yet, he has since started math, science and financial literacy programs for youth.
WHRO also provides Hampton Roads youth with access to books? Our “Raising Readers Van” tours throughout the area providing age appropriate books and games for children and families.
What can you do in your community? Become and American Graduate Champion and help youth succeed. 90% by 2020. Let’s make it happen!