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November is National Family Literacy Month

November is National Family Literacy Month and what better time to reinforce the importance of reading to children from a young age.  This month is all about families getting together and embracing the love of reading.  In recognition, organizations across the country are encouraged to emphasize the important role that families play in instilling a love of reading in their children and to foster learning and development through books.  Many libraries, schools, child development centers and the like have special programming and activities with the aim of getting families reading together.

As the local affiliate for Dolly Parton's Imagination Library (DPIL), BEGIN WITH BOOKS (BWB) is proud to partner with many of these organizations in Charleston County.  BWB is committed to addressing family literacy through community outreach by providing books and inspiring educators and caregivers in the community to spend more time reading to children in their care.  Since 2017, BWB has delivered 5,838 books to our partners in early childhood care and education, in addition to the almost 5,000 books we deliver every month directly to children's homes.  Prior to Covid, book deliveries were accompanied by in-person story-time reading sessions, where experienced volunteers demonstrated best practices in reading aloud to young children.  Just this past year, and in spite of Covid restrictions, BWB implemented 55 "Little Library" drops, delivering a total of 1,455 books to local schools and child-care providers.

How did National Family Literacy Month get started?

In the early 1990s, the National Center for Families Learning (NCFL) launched a survey on literacy across the country and the results were discouraging.  Millions of Americans could not read past a 6th grade level.  As a result, Congress passed a joint resolution to designate Family Literacy Month each November with the goal of improving literacy rates through information and access to books.  In the 27 years since its implementation, too many Americans are still struggling with basic literacy skills.  In South Carolina, as many as one-third of children enter kindergarten without the pre-literacy skills they need to succeed.  And estimates indicate as many as 67% of the state's third graders are not reading at grade-appropriate levels.  Children who fall behind in reading are more likely to drop out of school, be unemployed and live in poverty.  Every child should learn to read well.  Their future depends on it - it's that simple.

How Do We Make Every Child a Reader?

We make every child a reader by empowering parents and caregivers to start their child's reading journey early.  The best way to prepare children with the skills they will need to enter kindergarten is to get books into their homes, and being read to, well before beginning school.  A regular reading practice develops language, vocabulary, pre-reading and writing skills, as well as better attention spans, memory, self-regulation and emotional resilience.  A child enrolled in BEGIN WITH BOOKS receives a high quality age-appropriate book in the mail each and every month until their 5th birthday.  That's 60 of their very own books if enrolled in the program as a newborn!  BWB will mail almost 60,000 books directly to children's homes this year!

Make every Month Family Literacy Month

November may be National Family Literacy Month, but reading to your child should be a daily habit all year round.  Reading aloud to your child just 15 minutes a day is all it takes to reap huge benefits.  And consider this: if you read just one book a day with your little one, you will have read about 365 books in a year.  That is 730 books in two years and 1,095 books in three years.  That's the premise behind the 1,000 Books Before Kindergarten program offered through public libraries across the nation.  BWB partners with Charleston County Public Library and other literacy outreach programs to have children exposed to as many books as possible.  As Dolly says, "You can never get enough books into the hands of enough children."

Establishing a Reading Routine is Easier than You Think

Make snuggling with books a habit that your youngster comes to expect and look forward to.  In many homes, it's the 3Bs: BATH-BOOKS-BED.  It's a great time to wind down after a busy day and share precious moments together.  The aim is to get your child to love books and associate reading with connection and pleasure.  Let your child be as involved as their age permits.  Children love choosing their own books from the shelf.  And don't be surprised when they want you to read a favorite over and over.  Familiarity is comforting to them and the anticipation and learning that comes with repetition is hugely beneficial.

If you're looking for ideas to add more literacy into your daily life, be sure to check out the activity sheets provided by the Imagination Library.  Also, the NCFL has a calendar especially for Family Literacy Month with 30 days of activities and practices, available in English and Spanish.  Another fun idea is to make a record of what you're reading each night in special journal as a great keepsake for your child.

Here's what our BWB families are reading together this month:

4,816 children are enrolled in Charleston County, South Carolina

403,014 books have been delivered to 13,822 children since 2010

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-- Caron Bell, PhD, Early Childhood Development and volunteer 



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