Library helps parents raise readers

Published 9:55 am Friday, October 8, 2010

Sarah Bishop, director of Success By Six and coordinator of Raising A Reader, talks to 20 child-care providers and parents at the Raising A Reader kickoff at the Ruth Camp Campbell Memorial Library in Franklin. -- Andrew Faison | Tidewater News


FRANKLIN—Bonnie Roblin and the Blackwater Regional Library’s desire to be a community center got one step closer with the Raising A Reader kickoff held at Ruth Camp Campbell Memorial Library in Franklin on Saturday.

About 20 childcare providers and parents attended.

“We feel very much part of this community,” said Roblin, manager for the Franklin branch. “And this firms up our network through Smart Beginnings and all of the organizations in the community that are a part of that. It is just a huge leap forward for our literacy imperative here at the library.”

“And in this day and age of economic distress, we feel that our library and its resources are even more important to people than they ever have been before, ” she added.

Raising A Reader began in 1999 within a partnership of the San Mateo County Library in California and Peninsula Community Foundation’s Peninsula Partnership. In its 10-year history, Raising A Reader has reached more than 700,000 children.

Its long-term goal is to become a leader in early literacy family engagement and reach one million children. In 2006, 2007 and 2008, Raising A Reader was named one of the top 45 social entrepreneurs changing the world by Fast Company Magazine.

The Franklin library is the first library in Virginia to administer Raising A Reader. This pilot project is the result of several years of planning and a grant from Smart Beginnings Western Tidewater with support from the Franklin Department of Social Services.

“They (Southampton County and the City of Franklin) are very lucky to have a library bring this program to this area, “ said Sarah Bishop, director of Success By Six and coordinator for Raising A Reader. “I have a lot of respect for them.“

Raising a Reader has traditionally been a program for childcare centers, including Head Start and pre-kindergarten classrooms.  However, following a successful pilot with United Way of South Hampton Roads and The Planning Council, it has expanded to include family child-care providers.

Raising A Reader helps families learn to share books so they can understand the delight that comes with reading. It’s what Bishop calls “book cuddling” and gives caregivers the power to help young children enter school ready to learn.

“It is wonderful that you have a library that is saying that we are embracing this community,” Bishop said. “It is our job to support our parents, it is our job to support our childcare providers, and we are going to invest in children at the earliest.”

Raising a Reader 5-year-olds from South Hampton Roads in Head Start scored 69 percent higher in pre-reading and 59 percent higher in book knowledge than other Head Start 5-year-olds and older children. There also was a 75 percent increase in the number of parents who shared books with children five or more times per week.

If the program takes off, Roblin hopes to expand to other daycares and offer Raising A Reader at all branches of the library system.

The Franklin library will be having another get-together in January or February to go over the kickoff and progress of the program.

“When we have that get-together, we will give blue bags out to the childcare providers to give to their children,” said Roblin. “Those blue bags will belong to each child, and they can use that bag to come to the library and get their books.”