Raising a Reader
Adopt A Classroom
The Community Foundation San Luis Obispo County believes that every child in the county should have equal opportunity for lifetime success. One important way to achieve this is by preparing them for school. The Community Foundation’s initiative, Raising A Reader, has been doing just that in San Luis Obispo County since 2003. This unique turnkey program is a nationally recognized, award winning, early childhood literacy program for low income families. The program’s local success is reflected in the substantial increase in classroom sites, community participation, and more importantly, tangible results. At the beginning, two communities were served in San Luis Obispo County. Today, Raising A Reader classroom sites are serving 9 communities, in 18 locations with 27 classrooms throughout Oceano, Paso Robles, Shandon, Los Osos, Cambria, San Miguel, Atascadero, Nipomo and San Luis Obispo. During the 2012-2013 school year, 499 families participated, and over 2,500 families have participated since the program began in 2003. According to surveys conducted, family participants show a significant increase in behaviors that are encouraged by the program.
Benefit to Our Community
Raising a Reader’s value to our community is underscored by the reality that in San Luis Obispo County, nearly 15% of our students are designated as English Learners and a majority of them reside with families in which Spanish is the primary language. Thirty-four percent of our students are designated as socio-economically disadvantaged and many live with families that cannot afford to purchase age-appropriate books. School readiness for low-income families with parents who are poor readers or do not speak English well is key to closing the County’s achievement gap. “With one in three children entering kindergarten lacking pre-reading skills and many children in poorer neighborhoods not owning a single book, the Raising A Reader program has made a very positive impact here in San Luis Obispo County,” according to Brad Schultz, Assistant Superintendent of Educational Support Services at San Luis Obispo County’s Office of Education. “It has enabled key caregivers and parents to foster the love of reading through a shared book experience called book cuddling. In the areas where the program has been established, preschool children are entering elementary school with greater pre-reading skills."
Initial support for Raising A Reader was provided by a grant funded by the generous support of The Community Foundation’s Donors, and a partnership with First 5 School Readiness. The Community Foundation is seeking partners to adopt Raising A Reader classroom sites in order to sustain this successful and vitally important program for low income families and their children for next year and beyond. Support is also needed to bring more sites to our community that will ensure accessibility to this early literacy program for more pre-school children in San Luis Obispo County.
Impact on Early Childhood Literacy
Raising A Reader’s mission is to foster healthy brain development, support parent and child bonding, nurture early literacy skills, and instill a love of reading. The program specifically targets children during a vital developmental window that extends from birth to five years old. The program educates parents about their child’s brain development and the connection between the shared book experience and the healthy cognitive and emotional development of the brain. By addressing specific barriers that prevent parents from engaging in a shared book experience with their child, Raising A Reader provides the opportunity for them to be successful as their child’s first teacher.
Here is an example of the local impact in our community:
As a parent of two children, ages 2 and 4 1/2 who are currently enrolled at The Child Development Center, I feel it is necessary to speak about the benefits of the Raising A Reader Program.
First, I would like to give you a little background information on our family. We moved here to California from Missouri due to economic hardships and an inappropriate lifestyle. We left everything behind including our pictures, clothes, furniture, toys, and books, as well as our house and family.
Through the Child Development Center and the programs available to us, we received outside help that brought our family closer and helped us achieve stability. One such program is Raising a Reader. The children get four books each and every week -- books that have messages of fun, responsibility, culture, animals, friendship, and education. Some have both English and Spanish words so both groups can learn and better understand one another, bridging gaps otherwise left open.
Our family started off with both parents taking turns reading to our boys before bed. Now, on most days, the boys come up to us at various times wanting one or both of us to read to them . . .or they want to read to us! I can't stress how special it is to watch your child explore their imagination through a book. They are so excited to receive their "new" book every week. Thank you very much to all who are supporting this program. You aren't just helping a child to read -- you're helping a family to grow. -- From a San Luis Obispo Child Development Center Family
How Raising A Reader Works
The program is operated by trained Program Implementers, who use Raising A Reader materials to promote a shared book activity called book cuddling. Book cuddling is time spent between parent and child reading books together to encourage a love of books and the magic of storytelling. A “Read Aloud” video that is available in multiple languages is also provided to parents. The video models fun and appropriate reading behavior, and assists families with incorporating reading into their lifestyle. Following a unique library style model, Raising a Reader rotates twenty- six brightly colored red book bags each week that are filled with award-winning, age appropriate, children’s books selected for their visuals and ability to establish an interest in reading for the child. By the end of the program, families have cuddled over one hundred books. Blue book bags are given to each child as they graduate from the program and enter kindergarten, along with a library card to provide families with the incentive to continue reading together by having access to high-quality books for a lifetime.
Make an investment in our community’s future by giving a gift of exploration and education for pre-school children to help ensure a bright future. Join the Exchange Club of San Luis Obispo and other Community Foundation Donors and Funders who want to help sustain and expand Raising A Reader Classrooms in San Luis Obispo County. Contact The Community Foundation to find out how you can Adopt a Classroom today!
2013 Raising A Reader Participants
Five Cities Head Start, Oceano - Family participants