We know that the Family Reading Partnership is making an impact in our community and creating a culture of literacy from the many anecdotes about families and their growing awareness and love of children’s books and reading. Here are a few of our stories.
Stories Collected in our Tenth Birthday Year
To celebrate the 10th year of giving all newborn babies in our county “The Very Hungry Caterpillar” by Eric Carle, through our “Books at Birth” program, we walked in the Ithaca Festival Parade, pulling our 20 foot, very large fabric caterpillar. As we marched, a volunteer read the book aloud and the crowd on each side of the parade route shouted out the book’s refrain “… and he was still hungry!”
Children in our community have grown up with this book for a decade. We have created an environment in which families of all backgrounds have had the common experience of one book and know that reading to children begins at birth.
In 2001 we began providing all the medical practices serving families in our county with beautiful new children’s books to give to their young patients through the “Books to Grow On” program. Parents have commented that the books we have chosen to give out are perfect for the age of their child at the time of the appointment and that they were books they didn’t already have at home. Families have come to expect that they will get a book at each well-child visit.
This expectation is now so ingrained that children now associate books with a visit to the doctor, as this story illustrates: A four-year-old was overheard playing in the doctor’s corner at her nursery school. She examined her pretend patient and proclaimed her well. As the “patient” was leaving, the young “doctor” said, “Wait, wait! Don’t forget your book!”
The book that we provide to pediatricians for 6-month-olds is “Tickle, Tickle” by Helen Oxenbury. We have heard from two separate families who tell us that their children loved the book so much that their first words were “tickle, tickle!” Those two children have had lots of exposure to books already in their young lives!
Human service agencies in our area use books that they receive through our “Children’s Book Fund Grant” program to give as gifts to the families they serve. These books are given on home visits as a way to develop a relationship with the family, or in the case of the county Drug Court program, books are given to parents as they complete levels of treatment.
When agencies give books to families, children grow up with books in their homes and an expectation that adults will read to them. The judge at Drug Court found that when he gave one family a book at their treatment check-in, their little 18-month-old son had already come to anticipate the book, walked around the bench, climbed into the judge’s lap and wanted him to read the book! This young boy already knew the joy of reading a book together with a special adult.
At the Red Cross Friendship Center there is a “Bright Red Bookshelf,” which is one of the many shelves strategically placed throughout the community that the Family Reading Partnership keeps stocked with gently-used books for families to select and keep. One family that used the center reported that although they have moved from place to place, time after time, the books that their children own are the first things they grab to take with them to a new place, and that the books make a new place feel like home.
As these stories demonstrate, young children and families in our community are growing up with the expectation that books can be a part of their everyday lives. Families are given books by professionals they trust, through many different venues, and they are encouraged to read books together with their children. Books have made an impact in the lives of children, fostering positive family dynamics.
The Family Reading Partnership is always working to fulfill our mission: to create a culture of literacy in our community in which all children experience the pleasure of books as part of everyday life right from the start. We are creating a culture of literacy, one book, one family and one community at a time.