It’s not enough to have books in a classroom or library. It’s not enough to have parents who read. Studies show that literacy is also tied to a child’s ability to own their own books.
And some Hamilton kids don’t have books to call their own.
That’s why HWDSB’s Communications Services has launched a Children and Youth Book Drive, with the aim of delivering its first books to schools in May 2013 for Speech, Language and Hearing Month. HWDSB speech-language pathologists focus on building oral language and literacy skills to support student achievement.
“We know that early exposure to text is very important for children’s literacy,” explained Lynn Hicks, a speech-language pathologist at HWDSB. By the time children arrive at school, children raised in literate households will enter Grade 1 with hundreds more hours of one-to-one pre-reading experience compared to less literate households.
Co-ordinating the book drive with Hicks, Joan Murray-Wood explains that the inspiration came from hearing guest speaker Dr. Celeste Roseberry-McKibbin, a speech-language pathologist at California State University. Since 2008, she has collected 20,000 books, spurred by her knowledge of the impact of poverty on literacy.
Murray-Wood noted that having access to books is as strong a predictor of a child’s educational attainment as parents’ education level. A German study, found that access to books was more predictive of this than the family’s standard of living.
Data from the United States shows that 60 per cent of low income families have no children’s books. A Philadelphia study of low-income neighbourhoods found a ratio of one book for every 300 children compared to 13 books per household in the average middle class family. Hicks and Wood want to ensure there is a more equitable playing field for children living in poverty in Hamilton. We believe in the philosophy that, "Literacy is the ladder out of poverty," Murray-Wood said.
The book drive will accept donations until May 15, 2013. The organizers suggest that HWDSB staff and friends look around the home, ask community groups, visit thrift stores and buy books at library clearance sales to gather children’s books that would be appropriate for readers in Kindergarten to Grade 12.
The plan is to deliver books to higher needs HWDSB schools and, if numbers permit, other community spaces where youth are found such as day cares, women’s shelters and food banks.
To donate, please gather books in your school or department and then contact Joan Murray-Wood at joan.murray-wood(at)hwdsb.on.ca or Lynn Hicks at lynn.hicks(at)hwdsb.on.ca.
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