A child’s most critical brain development occurs before they enter Kindergarten. In the first few years of life, more than one million new neural connections form each second. When children develop early literacy skills and a love of reading during their formative years, they become successful readers and grow up to be strong contributors to their communities and the workforce. Since 2013, more than 600,000 books have been distributed to children who do not have a home library through EPIC’s Colorado Business Reads program.
In January, we will substantially extend the reach of this program through partnerships with both Book Trust as well as Reach Out and Read Colorado. “We are excited to join with these two early literacy leaders to enable EPIC members to put more books in the hands of the kids who need them,” explained EPIC Board Chairman, David Hammond.
Book access is the single biggest barrier to literacy. In low-income areas around the country, the ratio of books-to-children is one book to 300 kids. Research shows that 75% of children who are not proficient readers by the end of 3rd grade are four times less likely to graduate high school, and 52% percent of Colorado 4th grade students are not reading at grade level. Access to books is not enough. Studies confirm that ownership and choice of books increases students’ motivation to read and increases reading achievement.
Book Trust was founded in Fort Collins, Colorado, in 2001 with the mission to engage every child in book choice and ownership to cultivate literacy-rich communities. At schools across Colorado, Book Trust serves students in Pre-Kindergarten through 3rd grade. During each month of the academic year, students choose two to three books, at no cost to them, from the Scholastic Book Clubs’ flyer. Teachers and students celebrate the arrival of book orders and students read at school and at home, sharing with one another and engaging family members in the reading process. Over the course of the school year, students will add up to 25 books to their home libraries.
“Book Trust is an equity game changer, creating a culture of literacy in the classroom and the living room,” explained Kellie O’Keefe, President and CEO of Book Trust. “We are honored to partner with EPIC – a true champion for early childhood literacy. Together, we can ensure Book Trust students discover the joy and power of reading.”
Reach Out and Read Colorado encourages early reading and advances literacy messaging to families with young children by supplying books to children through their primary health care provider within the context of well-child visits. As a trusted messenger, the pediatrician can increase awareness of early literacy and encourage families to read with children. Greater than 90% of young children visit their pediatricians. During a visit, the child receives a book with a literal or figurative prescription to read, including shared reading within the family.
Shared reading is a key component in promoting language development in young children and nurturing emergent literacy skills. A lack of access to books is a major barrier to shared reading in the home. The Reach Out and Read program seeks to provide access to new, high quality, books which are language/culture/developmentally appropriate for families to share together.
Anne Tengler, Executive Director of Reach Out and Read Colorado explained, “Reach Out and Read Colorado and EPIC have a shared history of community support. We’re honored for the opportunity to deepen our partnerships with EPIC members, helping them connect their philanthropic mission and volunteerism with our clinics. Together, we will make a measurable difference in Kindergarten readiness.”
These two evidence-based partnership models will enhance the efficiency and effectiveness of EPIC’s Colorado Business Reads program through improved logistics and expanded statewide reach. EPIC members will now have the benefit of selecting a model that fits their company needs and access to turn-key activities for engaging their employees in early literacy support for their local community.
Nicole Riehl, President and CEO of EPIC, shared “EPIC’s partnership with both Book Trust and Reach Out and Read Colorado will allow us to further raise awareness around the importance of early childhood literacy while helping children build their own home libraries and develop a love of reading across the state. Members engage their companies by hosting a book drive or underwriting the purchase of new books for a local clinic, classroom, grade level or an entire school! EPIC members can also provide volunteers through employee engagement to create community book sharing stations, distribute books, read aloud, educate families on early literacy intervention, and promote literacy events on social media. Change starts at the community-level, and we know our business leaders care deeply about this issue.”
To learn more about how you and your business can get involved in promoting early childhood literacy, please visit EPIC’s website, Executives Partnering to Invest in Children.