Free Children’s Book Program Builds Foundation for Academic Success
Reading to young children transports them to worlds of adventure, mystery and excitement – stimulating curiosity, supporting language development and helping them gain other skills they will need for success in school and life. Because reading is critical, United Way of Metropolitan Dallas, Ferst Foundation for Childhood Literacy, and The Boone Family Foundation have partnered to create Once Upon a Month, a program that provides a free book each month to young children in Dallas.
Research indicates that the single most significant factor influencing a child’s early educational success is being read to at home prior to beginning school, yet 61 percent of low-income families have no books in the home suitable for a child. Without the benefit of ample early language experiences, children are more likely to begin school developmentally behind their peers, be less likely to read on level by third grade which, in turn, puts them at a much greater risk of dropping out of school. And it doesn’t stop there. High school dropouts are more likely to be teen parents, have poor health, be unemployed, abuse drugs, and end up in jail.
The Once Upon a Month program was created to eliminate the main reason why parents do not read to their child: lack of access to books. By providing age-appropriate, diverse books and parent literacy resources in both English and Spanish, Once Upon a Month supports children and families and encourages a language-rich environment in the home. Reading to children, starting at birth, helps equip them for academic success, giving them a greater chance of graduating from high school, attending college and earning more once they enter the workforce.
“United Way is committed to ensuring every child in North Texas has the opportunity for a quality education, and sadly, we know not all children have access to books,” said Jennifer Sampson, McDermott-Templeton President and CEO, United Way of Metropolitan Dallas. “This program will help rewrite children’s stories, because every child deserves a chance to succeed in school, and life.”
The program will officially begin on June 1, 2017 following a community kickoff at The Dallas Public Library on May 31. Families eligible to participate in the Once Upon a Month program include those living in Southern Dallas, the Bachman Lake neighborhood, Vickery Meadow, parts of Mesquite, and East and West Dallas. For additional information about eligible neighborhoods, and to register please visit www.ferstfoundation.org/Texas.
“Ensuring all children receive a quality education helps lay a foundation for future economic prosperity, and education begins with reading,” said Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings. “Once Upon a Month will fill a critical need by providing families access to books in targeted areas of our community.”
“By getting great quality books in the home and supporting parents as their child’s first, and best, teacher, we are going to help move the needle on school readiness for North Texas children,” said Betsy Wagenhauser, president of Ferst Foundation for Childhood Literacy.
Once Upon a Month has a goal of serving 3,500 children in its first year of operation, with a goal of future expansion. Along with the books, parents will receive monthly tips that offer easy ways for them to help their children become successful readers.
“Providing children’s books to families who may lack them constitutes both a simple and a profound first step on the road to increasing literacy in our community,” said Cynthia Yung of The Boone Family Foundation. “It also has the potential to strengthen family relationships by encouraging family members to read together.”
About United Way of Metropolitan Dallas: United Way of Metropolitan Dallas brings people together to improve lives and create lasting change here in North Texas by focusing on education, income, and health – the building blocks for strong families and thriving communities. We galvanize and connect all sectors of society – individuals, businesses, non-profits, and government – to create long-term change through investing in solutions that produce healthy, well-educated and financially stable individuals and families. We raise, invest and leverage over $50M annually in community-focused solutions serving Dallas, Collin, Rockwall and southern Denton counties. We do more than help one person beat the odds – we are changing the odds for entire communities. Together, we UNITE FOREVER. To learn more, please visit UnitedWayDallas.org.
About The Boone Family Foundation: The Boone Family Foundation is a resource for social justice and innovation. Grants are generally focused in Texas and communities where directors have an interest and are primarily in three areas to advance and support programs and institutions which: Advance equity for women and girls, Improve educational outcomes for children in public schools, and Promote environmental stewardship.
About Ferst Foundation for Childhood Literacy: Ferst Foundation for Childhood Literacy is a nonprofit organization that promotes literacy and early learning success by providing quality children’s books and parent resources so that more children will enter school prepared to learn. In the last 18 years, FFCL has delivered five million books to almost 250,000 children, birth to five. More than 800 volunteers across four states are working in their communities to raise awareness around the issue of early literacy and to help prepare preschool children for reading and learning success. To learn more about how you can support childhood literacy, enroll a child for free books or adopt a reader, visit FerstFoundation.org.