Do you remember your first book? I do. Mine was “Little Match Girl”. My mother used to read me this famous Dutch tale that so vividly reminds me of the harsh realities that exist for children living in poverty. Little Match Girl, despite her impoverished circumstances, would light a match in the cold streets to dream of beautiful things. I remember my mother, my siblings and I would curl up in bed and we would do like the little girl in the book and dream of beautiful things. For us kids, it was unicorns. For my mother, it meant a bright future for her first-generation children. Reading with my mom has inspired me to do the same with my little one.
It means so much to me to inspire my child to enjoy reading because I know it opens so many doors for him. I want those doors opened for all children, and that’s one reason I love our partnership with Unite for Literacy. This summer, despite everything, we were able to provide 32 books each to 42 families – that's 1,344 books! That’s in addition to the large digital library parents also have access to, with multiple languages and an audio function. There is a lot of reading going on!
Our goal for this program is to build a foundation of reading at home and prepare kindergartners to continue learning through reading. We have launched this program in several school districts, but we are particularly proud of launching over the summer in the Cartwright School District.
Cartwright joined us in a group that we are honored to work with – Read on Phoenix (part of Read-on Arizona). In that partnership, led by the City of Phoenix, organizations such as Valley of the Sun United Way, the City of Phoenix Libraries, Southwest Human Development, First Things First, Unite for Literacy, and the National Center for Families Learning came together to develop a joint reading program that delivers books and training to parents. When the pandemic first hit we were worried about how we would continue – but we all found unique ways to continue helping families develop a love of reading together.
At Stand for Children, we created our own 8-week program designed to encourage parents and their incoming kindergartners to read together. When they sign up, families receive a shipment from Unite for Literacy of 4 books each week, which comes to a total of 32 books by the end of the program.
Eva Espinoza and her son learning the ABC’s
Our team then facilitates four workshops in which parents are trained on how they can most effectively work with their kids at home to encourage literacy. Having two kiddos myself, I know the importance of learning through play and in this program, we do just that! We make sure to share fun kinesthetic exercises with our parents that will keep their kids engaged and excited for more. My favorite exercise is reading a book out loud and then asking the kids to draw what they hear. This way, they use their imagination as well as their comprehension skills to depict the story. We also distribute simple “DIY” materials that can easily be found around the home such as cookie sheets. We use these as whiteboards to practice our ABCs and use magnets to put together sight words. These simple at-home activities have shown parents that with a little imagination teaching can be done anywhere.
Because we are not able to get together in person, the workshops are hosted through Facebook Live. At first, we thought parents wouldn’t be comfortable online, but it turns out they really like it! Being able to get together, but not leave their home and children, makes it even easier for them!
Often, children with so much potential are overlooked and under-tapped because of their skin color, zip code, first language, or disability. Our team is determined to change that. Projects like these provide young learners the opportunity to start their elementary school reading at an appropriate level, and we are grateful to donors such as Arizona Community Foundation, Cox Charities, Gila River Indian Community, and Helios Education Foundation who support this important work.
Alicia Mirtha teaching her daughter sight words
Thank you to our donors, our partners, and most importantly, the parents who are learning and growing, right alongside their children!