The ability to read is something many of us take for granted. It is something we learned long ago and practice so often that it seems almost an innate human function. And how could we live without it? It provides a bridge to opportunities in education, careers, and in our everyday lives. Unfortunately, we often forget about the complicated and challenging process of actually teaching that skill to young learners.
Foundational skills that support literacy are developed well before a child enters kindergarten. We are familiar with images of a teacher at the head of a classroom reading stories and parents cuddling up with a toddler and a book at bedtime. These are powerful and important moments that are equally important for a developing child. Teachers can’t do it alone, parents can’t do it alone, and classroom reading instruction is not enough to ensure children are reading on grade level. Literacy skills are sharpened well beyond the classroom and the bedtime story. Anyone who reads can help to instill a love of reading in young children.
In Pinellas County, Florida we are challenging our entire community to support teachers and parents and find new ways to promote literacy.
We have all seen the billboards saying that young children benefit from shared reading experiences; just “15 minutes a day” can make all the difference. That is, of course, if parents and other caring adults have the books to read. Many homes, particularly in low income areas, do not have a library of children’s books. Ready to Read Pinellas shares the joy of reading by putting high quality age appropriate books in the hands of young children from low income families. Every child who walks through our doors receives a book of their choice from our Ready to Read shelves!
Adventure in Tote Bags is a literacy program where children in Family Child Care Homes are provided with a tote bag to take home which includes age appropriate books and activities to be enjoyed by the family. Parents and family members are encouraged to read and participate in the activities with their children, fostering a love of reading in the entire family.
Officer Friendly’s Book Club pairs local law enforcement officers and early learning centers to promote a love of reading and build positive relationships between little citizens and law enforcement. Our Officer Friendly partners read to the children and donate a book to the center at the end of the visit. The Coalition’s literacy specialists select the books and provide support activities and materials for the center.
Each year at the end of January, we engage the wider community through a series of events known as “Celebrate Literacy Week,” which is this week! The Early Learning Coalition hosts special guest readers throughout the week at early learning sites all around the community. Guest readers included local business and nonprofit executives, elected officials, professional athletes and police and fire chiefs.
Through these efforts, we seek to raise awareness and create a community full of advocates for literacy.
How are you supporting literacy in your community?