Growing literacy program gives away $5,000 to $6,000 worth of children's books each semester
If you're still looking for a way to give to those in need this holiday season, consider UNT's Success for Life through Reading program.
The project began in 2001 in the College of Public Affairs and Community Service as the community outreach component of another program, Success for Life Programs in Early Childhood Education. That program was started in the College of Education by early childhood education professor George Morrison. Every week, Success For Life through Reading links UNT student volunteer readers with preschool children from low-income families and gives each child new books he or she can take home.
The program serves about 550 preschoolers enrolled at 7 partner agencies.
Strong start for reading
Rachel Yedlowski, the program's literacy coordinator, says reading to and giving young children brand new books helps them by:
- placing children's books in homes that likely have few or none
- helping children learn through repetition as the books are read to them again and again
- helping them start learning to read
- encouraging the children to ask parents or siblings to read to them
The program works to maintain five goals:
- to develop a love of reading in preschool children through interactive reading sessions led by college students
- to build children's vocabulary and language skills
- to ensure that each child served receives at least 5 books each semester to take home
- to provide UNT students with a meaningful experience in an early childhood classroom through a community-based program
- to provide volunteer support to early childhood teachers at our partner agencies
It takes lots of books
Since it began, the program has given away about 10,500 books and in the past two years alone it has provided about 3,000 books a year.
Yedlowski says the program expects to give away about 5,000 books this academic year.
"Between the discounts our program receives for being a Scholastic Literacy Partner and the free bonus books we receive for every $150 we spend, it costs our program between $5,000 and $6,000 each semester to provide each of the 550 children with at least 5 brand new books," she says.
A volunteer reads to a class.
While much of the program's book budget is provided by grant funds, the program still relies on donations from the community to make ends meet.
"Community members can help us by making monetary or in-kind donations to the program and by participating in our annual special fundraising events," Yedlowski says. "And while we are happy to accept book donations, we need sets of at least 24 brand new copies of the same book to give to the children. We find that they are more excited when they receive a new book and feel a greater sense of ownership for it because it is brand new. That makes them more likely to read it or ask to have it read to them again and again."
Yedlowski says they won't turn down donations of used books or single copies because those books are passed along to the Apple Tree Project, a Denton back-to-school program that provides children from low income families with a new backpack filled with clothes and school supplies – and books – at the start of the new school year.
"Community members can also help us spread awareness about our program and the work that we do here in Denton," she says.
"The program was created as a way to reach out to low-income families in Denton, so all of the agencies serve primarily low-income preschool children," Yedlowski says. "The two main criteria to partner with us are that you serve preschool aged children, and that about 50% of those children are from low-income families."
Success for Life through Reading serves preschoolers enrolled at:
- ABC Preschool and Childcare Center, Inc.
- Ann Windle School for Young Children>
- Denton Christian Preschool
- Denton City County Day School
- Fred Moore Day Nursery School
- Terry's Treehouse Learning Center
- Tiny Tykes Learning Center
This spring the program will add Woodrow Wilson Elementary as a partnering agency.
Supply and demand
"Adding Wilson will increase the amount of books we need each semester," Yedlowski says. "Because of limited funds for books, we're unable to serve children who attend other preschools in Denton -- and beyond --who would meet the program's qualifications for partnership.
"This fall we had more student volunteers than we've ever had, and based on that increase our program is making plans to expand and partner with additional qualifying preschool agencies," Yedlowski says. "Our ability to create new partnerships will depend on our book supply and the funds we have to purchase more books."
Though it hasn't happened yet, Yedlowski says if the program begins to run out of books during a semester, volunteers will continue visiting the classrooms and reading to children each week, but they will have to stop giving books away.
"I hope we never get to that point," she says.
If you would like to make a donation to Success for Life through Reading, send it to:
UNT/Center for Public Service
1155 Union Circle #310919
Denton, TX 76203-5017
Checks should be made out to UNT/Center for Public Service, with "Success for Life through Reading" noted in the memo line.