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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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Children exist… get with the program!

Last night, Andrew and I walked into a restaurant in a neighboring town. It is the town I am from, a very small North Carolina town with little to choose from when it comes to restaurants and outings.

The parking lot was about full, but the type of food it had was exactly what we were craving, so we stopped in. It is a small place. With an outdoor covered area/patio area and a small inside dinning room with an even smaller bar.

They weren’t full, there were tables opened, both inside and outside.

We told the hostess there were two adults and one high chair, and she scurried away to make accommodations. Less than a minute later, the manager came up to us and informed us that the only two high chairs owned by the restaurants were taken. He then continued by saying that since he didn’t have a high chair for us, it would be best and easier if we sat outside at one of the larger picnic style tables because we could just put Turner on the table.
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I guess it goes without saying, we left the restaurant. Time and time again I get frustrated when public places are not accommodating to babies. Like when a bathroom doesn’t have a changing table. I mean, I don’t expect every small mom and pop to be fully-equipped to handle what a child needs, but I really think it should just be part of the basics. Kind of like handicapped accessible. There should be rules and regulations for being baby-accessible. This is not the first time I have encountered such problems. When Turner was first born we had a similar incident.

I admit, I was frustrated. I was hungry, ill, it was raining, and the nerve of such a business, to be basically one of maybe 5 options in the whole entire town, and to not have a stinking high chair?! Unacceptable.

We left and went to another restaurant. Lulu’s on Main Street, which according to reviews is not very baby friendly. Well, we found quite the opposite to be true. Although the restaurant is a bit fancier than the first we stopped into, not only did the have a stack of high chairs, they were playfully painted. The kids menu was pleasingly priced, and the food and service was divine.

So the little high chair mishap ended up taking Andrew and I to a new favorite spot, so no harm no foul.

But dang it, if it isn’t frustrating to have public places, for no seemingly good reason, just not accommodate children and families. It is just bad business!

, SiteDart Author

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Celebrating a firework-less Fourth!

Turner’s second Fourth of July is officially on the books and it was incredible.

Although our small town has one of the biggest, if not THE biggest, firework show in our region, Andrew and I decided to skip the hustle and bustle of the tourist trap this year and head for the lake with friends.

We went to Lake Lure, a beautiful little lake town less than 2 hours from home with my bff Mary, her boyfriend and his kids. IMG_9277 It was relaxing, enjoyable, and just what we needed. It was actually mine and Andrew’s first kid-friendly adult get-together, weird as that might seem. IMG_9256

We spend the day out on the lake’s beach, which was great because although Turner was not a fan of the ocean’s beach and sand, he loved the lake. He loved the sand, the water didn’t scare him one bit, and he even dunked himself under a few times! He didn’t shed a single tear… which is far different than our Florida beach experience. IMG_9216

We didn’t see any fireworks, probably for the first time in my life, but I am ok with that. I am sure they would have scared Turner anyway, and he was basically down before dark. Once you have seen one firework, you have just about seen them all.

It was also adorable to see Turner play with the other kids. He just loved them. I think he definitely found an older love interest too. IMG_9278

, SiteDart Author

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Settling for second place

Andrew and I are extremely competitive individuals. I fear for Turner as he gets older because I know that Andrew will be in the front of the line to sign up to coach any sport Turner wants to try out. It could be underwater basket weaving and Andrew is going to be right there to cheer Turner on and coach him in anyway he can.

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Well this past weekend was our town’s annual Halloween celebration, PumpkinFest. We entered Turner into the costume contest and believe it or not, Turner took second place in his age division!

Prepping for the event began in August. Andrew and I strategically planned which costume would be best for Turner. We searched for hours, bounced ideas off each other, and new creativity was going to be the key. We of course wanted to dress up with him, so we had to think of a complete idea or theme to incorporate the entire family. We didn’t want to be too commercial or be too themed around pop culture. You risk selecting something that a judge may not be familiar with, so we wanted to keep it simple.

We also didn’t want to go to the store and buy something to fit him because that lacks originality. We formed an idea first, then sought out costumes. With Turner being 5-months-old (well he will be 5 months on the 30th) and this being our first Halloween, we thought the celebration of firsts would be a good road to go down.

So after lengthy debate and deliberation, and consideration of the judge’s mindset in the competition, we decided to develop a “First Thanksgiving” theme. A play on this year being our first Thanksgiving together, all while playing homage to the historical aspects of our nation’s first Thanksgiving, we developed a concept that wowed the judges and secured a second place victory.

I warned Andrew going into the competition that it will be hard to beat cute little girls. Eyeing the competition beforehand, there were some adorable little girls. Turner’s age division was 0-2 years old, an 18 month little girl dressed up like a crazy cat lady in a robe, curlers, and stuffed cats was precious and the only contestant that came close to Turner, she took the first place medal.

 When we were waiting to hear the results, another precious little girl dressed as the Coppertone baby, compete with a dog glued to her bottom and adorable pig tails, had me worried. Those little girls were some stiff competition. But as soon as Coppertone was announced as the third place winner, I knew we were in.

Admittedly, Turner may have had an unfair advantage, but it is not my fault that Andrew and I were such dedicated parents we elected to be props for Turner’s competition. We had a wagon decorated like the dinner table with pumpkins, gourds, and leaves, and a bumper seat strapped securely in the middle to prop Turner right in the middle as the project’s centerpiece. And no first Thanksgiving feast can be complete without a dashing pilgrim and jaw dropping indian to escort him on stage.

Despite the bite of cold resulting in Turner’s first runny nose and a few sleepless nights because of a minor cold to follow, all in all it was a fantastic, triumphant morning.

 Second place is a great starting point. We now have just over 350 to get our act together to ensure that first place victory will be ours next year.