There is a striking disparity in the school readiness of children from low-income families. According to a 2013 report by the Annie E. Casey Foundation, The first eight years: Giving kids a foundation for lifetime success, when a child from a low-income family enters kindergarten, he is 12 to 14 months behind in language and pre-reading skills compared to his peers from higher-income households. There are many complicated reasons for the school readiness gap including parent engagement and access to educational enrichment resources.
In August 2015, ESNG launched our partnership with the national nonprofit Raising A Reader to implement its early literacy and family engagement program in our child development centers. Thanks to funding from the Target Foundation, Jackson EMC Foundation, and Head Start, the program reached children in four of our 11 child development centers in the school year 2015-16. We will expand the program to an additional six centers next school year from generous gifts from PNC and the Luther and Susie Harrison Foundation.
As with all of our programs, the child is the center of the initiative. When a child is excited about reading, he will ask loved ones to share books repeatedly.
"Ever since the school started sending home books every week, my daughter enjoys reading more than she ever did before. She became more interested in writing and reading and is more creative. She increased her vocabulary and created a habit of reading. Thanks to the program, I read to my daughter more often." - ESNG parent
Every week, children take home a bag full of books.
"This program was a lot of help for my son and me. He had a lot of interest in reading his books, and to know that he had different books each week, he would always be excited to open his bag and to choose what he would like to read. He learned more about letters, stories, animal, and drawings. He learned to remember the characters and their names. This helped me create a better habit of reading together." - ESNG parent
Several times throughout the implementation of the program, parents attend hands-on training from ESNG's education specialists. They practice how to effectively read to their children, how to ask questions about the stories, and how to establish a routine of reading every day.
"Thanks to the program, I learned how to listen and help my children better. Now I can see the difference. With the books, my four children and I created a library at home. My four girls (ages 9, 6, 3 and 2) cut some cereal boxes in a diagonal form, put some books in each one, and aligned the boxes against the wall. We call it our 'Library Corner.' Every time we want a book, we say, 'Let's go the Library to get some books.' This program is a very powerful tool to help parents and children to become better readers and discover the magic of reading. Thanks a lot for creating programs like this." - ESNG parent