FARMINGTON – Children at Community Concept’s Farmington Early Learning Center will be celebrating the creative life of Dr. Seuss, honoring his March 2 birthday all week long with official “weird hat days,” Cat in the Hat themed games and, of course, lots of reading.
For some kids, the games and activities will be introduced at home as well- thanks to a collaborative effort between the center and Literacy Volunteers. The program, Bringing Books to Life- affectionally nicknamed Book Club- helps to establish a strong foundation of literacy at home both for the children and their parents.
“The Raising Readers program is a great initiative that is getting lots of books into the homes of families,” Early Learning Center Site Manager Danielle Hamlin said. “But in my past work as a home visitor, I saw a lot of those books just getting lost because there was no support for the parents to read them with their young children.”
Raising Readers is a state-wide program that sends home free books with a visit to the doctors office for the child’s early years of appointments. The program has sent out thousands of books to families across the state, bridging a frequently seen gap of books in the homes of low-income families.
Hamlin explained that the program also has an online tool kit to go along with each book- full of educational activities and take away experiences to be had with the story.
“But a lot of low-income parents don’t have access to the internet at home, and some struggle with reading themselves,” she explained.
As she moved into her position at the Early Learning Center, Hamlin began attending events and workshops in the community that revolved around literacy. It was at one of those events that Hamlin first heard about Literacy Volunteers- the volunteer-based program that helps low literate adults obtain the skills of reading and writing.
“We saw parent learners, and kids getting more and more books, but the two had never been put together,” she said.
It didn’t take long for Book Club to evolve. With the help of Literacy Volunteers director Barbara Averill, the program now reaches roughly 25 families. Once a month the parents of Early Learning Center students gather at the pre-school to read the book together, practice some of the related activities and head home with a ready-to-use tool kit.
Hamlin keeps the groups small, only up to six at a time, and a Literacy Volunteers helper is always there to lead the read through. The group doesn’t just read, however, they practice essential foundations of becoming strong readers- things like predictions, making real life connections, and discussing character development.
“I like having new ideas to bring home to my kids, and helping them learn things. It makes me feel more positive about myself as a parent,” Jennifer Sweetser said.
Sweetser’s daughter attends the Early Learning Center and the two have been involved with Book Club since it got started three years ago.
Not all parents can read as well as Sweetser can, but Hamlin said that’s really the point. A lot of parents choose to pass on their turn to read, and that’s more than ok.
“Even if they don’t know how to read, it doesn’t mean they can’t participate. We’re here to support them,” Hamlin said.
The program is funded through a grant from United Way of the Tri-Valley Area and will be presented this month at the Barbara Bush Literacy Conference at Thomas College. Hamlin and Averill have high hopes that the program will expand, and possibly be used in other parts of the state.
For more information on Literacy Volunteers click here.