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Raising a Reader expands to Contra Costa County

January 14, 2014
Original Author: Elizabeth Daley

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Each book brings the opportunity for new conversations and bonding between parents and children

Molly Wertz

San Francisco Executive Director

Raising A Reader

Raising A Reader is a national program aimed at promoting literacy. Now the book-sharing program in San Francisco and Alameda Counties is expanding services to include Contra Costa County.

The book-sharing program will serve 14,000 children, San Francisco Executive Director Molly Wertz has announced.

Red Raising a Reader Book Bags

The program sends pre-school aged children home with a rotating selection of language-appropriate books each week in signature red book bags.

Wertz estimated that there were 66,000 books currently circulating through the programs. She can only imagine how many stories are being told each night. Each book brings the opportunity for new conversations and bonding between parents and children, according to Wertz.

Closing the “word gap”

Raising A Reader aims at closing the “word gap,” a studied phenomenon wherein low-income children often start school with a lesser vocabulary than their wealthier peers.  Through the book rotation, children who might not otherwise have access to books are provided with an ample supply of appropriate literature.

Wertz said her organization also provides parent education regarding the importance of reading to children.

“Once we share with parents that the best thing to do is to share with your child the language you are strongest in, many are relieved,” she said.

Speaking the family language

Parents who do not speak English are often worried that if they speak or read to their child in their native language, the child will be at a disadvantage. Wertz said studies have shown that this is not the case.

Raising A Reader provides books in Spanish and Chinese, so parents may share stories with children in the language they are most comfortable with.

“Regardless of which languages we speak, they all have a structure and once our brains figure out what the structure of language is, that is easily transferable to another language,” Wertz said.

Reading is more than just words

Touting the many benefits of reading to children, Wertz said children who were read to had a greater ability to “self-regulate,” explaining: “that back and forth between an adult and child teaches the child that her turn will come.”

Blanca Baires of St. Vincent’s Day Home in Oakland said that teachers do support the efforts of Raising A Reader. It simply makes their job easier.

“It really has helped my teaching. It’s been great to see the development with the kids, too.At the beginning of the year I choose short books because they can’t sit still,” Baires said.

“But by the end of the year they’re asking for five, six books, and sometimes I’m reading through two bags.

They love those red bags,” she said.