Making literacy a priority for the children in my community

After Turner was born, I made it my mission to ensure that all children in my community had the best of everything. From sponsoring kids at Christmas, to working to start a local Safe Kids Chapter, I have made it my goal to make the world Turner lives in better.

My husband Andrew, of course is annoyed by my constant causes and efforts to take on the world, but I feel obligated. Maybe it is the new mom in me and my idea, however naive it may be, that I can make a difference. I may not change the whole world, but I am certainly going to work really hard to change mine.

My family's Christmas card this year.

My family’s Christmas card this year.

One of those efforts, which I was actually a part of long before Turner, is Read2Me. Read2Me is comprised of a group of volunteers in my community who are working to prove that Reading Matters in Macon County. We work to ensure that all children in our county, regardless of income, have access to books. Early literacy is so crucial to a child’s development and from birth, even before birth, it is so important to read to and with your children. We want to make sure that everyone knows that and have the resources to do it.

Where we live is considerably poor. Most families in our community live below the poverty line and not only is access to resources limited, but the general education and knowledge of the importance of early literacy is something that is often loss. Read2Me wants to change that, and since we started 3 years ago, we have.

When we started, 75 percent of children entering Kindergarten were testing below proficient on the reading readiness test. The test includes things like knowing you read a book left to right, and which way a book should be, upside down or right side up. Seemingly simples things, that were being ignored. With Read2Me working to provide books to all children in the county, and holding parent training sessions on how to raise a reader, those test scores have improved dramatically. If I remember correctly, the last figures we got showed that now only about 35 percent of children were testing below proficient. That number is still way too high, proving that we have a lot of work to do.

One of Read2Me’s main focuses is implementing the Dolly Parton Imagination Library. We have worked with another local literacy group to bring the program to children in Macon County. We fully fund the program, so it is free for all children, regardless of income. Through the Dolly program, all children in Macon County, birth to age 5, receive a book in the mail each month. The book is addressed to them and is age appropriate. The program is magical and so many children love it.

Dolly-Partons-Imagination-Library

In the first full year of the program we served a little more than 1,000 kids, with about 820 actively enrolled. That is incredible. It cost us about $32,000 each year to bring the program to Macon County. What that breaks down to is about $30 per child, per year. A small price to pay to support literacy.

This year, we are a couple of thousand dollars shot tot our $32,000 so we are in a fundraising crunch to ensure that the program can continue through 2015 and beyond. We fundraise all year long. We hold bake sales, car shows, yard sales, talk to local groups, and do just about anything and everything we can think of to get they money raised. It matters to us. It is important to us to make sure that reading is a priority in our community.

We have set up a Go Fund Me account in hopes of raising some additional funding for the program. It may be a stretch, but we are hoping that our mission reaches beyond our community and we can solicit support on a grander scale. If you would like to help, please visit our Go Fund Me page: http://www.gofundme.com/iy31m4. If you can’t make a small donation, please share our story. Please join us in proving that Reading Matters in Macon.

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