August 9, 2017
Written By Meghan Marsden Parsche, United Way Volunteer
Children can fall three months behind academically while school is out, especially if they lack great books at home. To help encourage year-round reading, United Way has teamed up with several partners to offer more than 10,000 free books this summer for kids to pick out and take home to keep. At a recent event at COA Goldin Center, several families had the opportunity to enjoy reading-focused activities and take new books home to enjoy.
For this event, called Growing Little Readers, United Way partnered with Next Door, which serves children and families from Milwaukee’s central city with early education and health programs directed toward kids ages zero to five. Every year, Next Door distributes thousands of new or gently used books to local children. Thanks to a donation from the United Way, Next Door has been handing out two new books and a literacy kit to each Growing Little Readers participant. In total, 14 Growing Little Readers events will take place around Milwaukee this summer. The event at COA Goldin Center, which took place on July 20, was the eleventh in the series.
At the event, participants had the opportunity to make crafts related to the books of children’s author Eric Carle (of The Very Hungry Caterpillar theme) and enjoy a snack. One of the craft activities involved making a book clasp that allows books to stay attached to car seats, strollers, etc., to encourage parents to take a book with them wherever they go.
According to Next Door’s President, Dr. Tracey Sparrow, the free books are more valuable than many might realize. “Research shows that the number of books available to a child may surpass all other variables in predicting their first grade reading achievement and long-term success in school,” she says. “And while everyone has access to books at the library, parents have told me how much it means to their kids to have books that belong to them.”
The books handed out at the event include Eric Carle titles in both English and Spanish, as well as multicultural books that will resonate with participants, hopefully helping to foster a love of reading.
Over 70 people participated in the July 20 Growing Little Readers event, which put 148 books into the hands of children.
“Building language and literacy skills is the foundation of the work we do at Next Door,” says Dr. Sparrow. “So we are incredibly thankful to the United Way and our other partners who have helped us to expand our reading programs.”
You can help make an impact in the United Way’s efforts to promote early childhood literacy by becoming an Emerging Reader volunteer!
Meghan Marsden Parsche is a proud United Way supporter, stay at home mom to her four young children, and volunteer writer for United Way. Meghan enjoys telling the stories of the programs and people making a positive impact on our community.