Book distribution programs and their impact on kids

Yesterday, I attended an event at the National Press Club, the release of a report commissioned by Reading is Fundamental (RIF) and conducted by Learning Point Associates (LPA). (Full disclosure: I managed this project when at LPA.) For those that do not know, RIF has been around since 1966 and gives free books and other literacy resources to children and their families in underserved communities. A great stat from RIF’s website: It “provided 4.4 million children with 15 million new, free books and literacy resources last year,” about the number of volumes in the Boston Public Library.

In short, LPA’s report, an incredibly exhaustive meta-analysis of research around book lending and ownership programs, shows that programs like RIF, Reach Out and Read, and Everybody Wins impact children in four ways:

  • They improve the reading performance of children, as the findings suggest that providing children with print materials helps them read more effectively.
  • They help children learn the basics of reading; with these reading materials, children develop basic reading skills such as letter and word identification, phonemic awareness, and completion of sentences.
  • Children in these programs read more and for longer lengths of time, and there is more shared reading between parents and children.
  • Lastly, children in these programs show improved attitudes toward reading and learning; with greater access to books, children show more enjoyment for them, reading, and academics.

Powerful stuff.

So, do you have a book distribution program in your community? If not, start one. Book distributions can take place in schools, childcare facilities, health clinics, public libraries, after-school sites, and other education and community-based settings. Check in with someone at one of these places, to see what they know and how they can assist. Even call one of the national partners mentioned above, to see if you’re eligible. There’s much to gain, it seems, from that simple act of giving a child a book.

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