Galvanized by a national reading campaign, communities across California are launching innovative partnerships that are resulting in new early literacy programs in schools, libraries and even laundromats.
“There’s a lot of books here, really good books,” said 9-year-old Melanie Garcia-Macias, who sat with her back to a big red bookshelf at the end of a long line of washing machines at the Clean Express Coin Laundry in Richmond one recent Wednesday. A copy of “The Night Before Christmas” was splayed open on her lap.
“You can take one home, but you have to bring one back or bring one from your home to replace it,” she said. “I think it’s a pretty good plan.”
The plan – giving students free access to engaging titles while their parents fluff and fold – is just one of the ingenious ways communities are opening doors to literacy through the nationalCampaign for Grade Level Reading, sponsored by the Annie E. Casey Foundation.
In other communities, the campaign has had a more direct impact.
In Fresno, for example, the head of the public housing authority was so swayed by what he heard about the importance of reading on grade level by third grade that he formed a partnership with First 5 Fresno to bring Americorps volunteers into the housing developments and work with parents and young children on pre-literacy activities like reading together and creating artwork.
Stockton librarian Suzy Daveluy said she knew children in her city were struggling with reading, based on the number of help requests she got from parents. But she didn’t realize how bad the literacy crisis had become until she met with national campaign leaders.
“What I can credit the campaign with is opening my eyes up to some of the realities that our children are facing,” Daveluy said.