January 12, 2007 — This year, 800 Salt Lake schoolchildren from low-income families will receive 5,000 books through a partnership between First Book and Cheerios Spoonfuls of Stories. First Book, an international nonprofit organization that gives children from low-income families their first new books, is partnering with Cheerios Spoonfuls of Stories to provide a year’s worth of books to children in one select program in every state. Their select program in Utah is the Bennion Center’s America Reads Program at the University of Utah.
America Reads Program Coordinator Christine Hill estimates the program will receive 5,000 books to be distributed to 1st, 2nd and 3rd graders at Parkview, Mountain View and Lincoln elementary schools as well as kindergartners at Salt Lake’s Neighborhood House. Nearly 750 elementary schoolchildren will get five books each and the kindergartners at Neighborhood House will receive a full set of 12 books. Hill says, “I’m very excited to see the kids get so many books when many of them don’t have even one at home!”
The mission of the U of U’s America Reads Program is to ensure that every child can read well and independently by the end of the third grade. According to the National Commission on Reading, “The single most significant factor influencing a child’s early educational success is an introduction to books and being read to at home prior to beginning school.” Yet nearly two-thirds of low-income families own no books for their children (McQuillan, Jeff “The Literacy Crisis: False Claims, Real Solutions).
With 35.6 million Americans-40 percent of them children-currently living below the poverty line, the risk of these children entering school already at a disadvantage is great. Children from low-income families are less likely to attend kindergarten programs and more likely to repeat grades in school.
U of U students who receive federal work-study financial aid participate in America Reads as one-on-one tutors in local elementary schools helping children develop literacy skills and confidence. Holly E., tutor at Lincoln Elementary expresses, “I have learned just how difficult the job of today’s educator is. Tutoring through America Reads has helped me realize how grateful I am to be a part of the solution to improving education in the United States.”
The U of U’s America Reads program is housed in the Lowell Bennion Community Service Center in the Olpin Union Building. For more information about America Reads at the U or book delivery specifics, contact Christine Hill at firstname.lastname@example.org or 801-585-9101.