Reading is a powerful gift. For young children, it builds language, confidence, listening skills, and focus. Reading together helps parents forge a strong, supportive relationship with their child. It's not surprising that reading is one of the best things parents can do get their young children ready to succeed in school.
"We know that 90 percent of a child's brain is developed before the age of five," says Carolyn Shelley, Raising a Reader Program Coordinator. "There's a small window of large opportunity for parents to affect their child's life and learning."
Raising a Reader, a program of Yavapai College funded by First Things First, works to make sure young children are being read to - as much as possible. The program, which works like a mobile library for preschools and child care centers, sends children home with bags filled with books to read with their parents. Books are exchanged for new ones each week.
Carolyn Shelley says that reading is a great way to teach focus, attention and listening in young children- skills they will need for school. "People believe that children naturally listen, but they don't. It's a skill they acquire," says Shelley.
Now, Raising a Reader is partnering with Parents as Teachers, a free home visiting program of Arizona's Children Association also funded by First Things First. Through Parents as Teachers, families with young children receive visits from a Parent Educator, who provides individualized support, development and health screenings for the child, parenting education, and connects the family to resources they may need.
Lorina McCabe, Program Coordinator with Parents and Teachers, says that she has worked with many families who do not own a single children's book. By joining forces with Raising a Reader, Parents Educators will now bring the book-filled bags for each young child of the families they work with, and exchange the books for new ones each time they visit. "Families are excited about the prospect of getting more books in their home," says McCabe.
Adriana and her two-and-a-half year old son Michael have been enrolled in Parents as Teachers since July 2012, and are thrilled to begin participating in Raising a Reader. Adriana has been reading to Michael since he was born. At two-and-a-half, Michael already has a library card and even knows how to use the check-out machine at the Prescott Public Library. "Reading is important for Michael in many ways- for his speech, patience, and for teaching him the confidence to read later on," says Adriana.
Through the partnership between Raising a Reader and Parents as Teachers, families in Prescott and throughout Yavapai County are giving their young children the strong foundation they need to be ready to read- and succeed.
Parents as Teachers and Raising a Reader are free programs funded by First Things First in the Yavapai Region. To enroll in Parents as Teachers, please call 1-888-771-3435 X 2409.For more information about First Things First, please visit readyAZkids.com.