What was your favorite childhood book? Many times this question sparks nostalgia — Where the Wild Things Are, Charlotte’s Web, Harry Potter, Blueberries for Sal, are just a few answers. Can you imagine what it would have been like not to have that book in your life? Or any book of your own, for that matter?
An overwhelming number of children in Nevada don’t have a single book to call their own. The ratio of books to children in middle-income neighborhoods is 13 books to 1 child, while the ratio in low-income neighborhoods is 1 book to 300 children. This is a huge contributing factor to Nevada’s students faring second to last nationally with only 31% of 4th graders scoring proficiently in reading. In addition, educators state that lack of reading materials at home is one of the largest roadblocks to their students’ ability to achieve sufficient reading skills.
As educators themselves, Spread the Word Nevada’s (STWN) co-founders Laurie Hartig and Lisa Habighorst realized the value of children having books of their own. They began STWN in 2001 with a garage full of books to start their flagship program, Kids to Kids, which places books in the hands of children who may never have owned one before. Now, nearly twenty years later, more than 59,000 books are distributed to Nevada’s children every month. Millions of children in need have benefited from the four literacy programs run by the organization: Kids to Kids, Breakfast with Books, Books on Break, and Books and Buddies.
- Breakfast with Books is a family literacy program where children get to enjoy a story being read to them, and parents have the ability to see and learn the joy of reading with their children. So many parents were never read to as a child, so they lack the confidence to read to their children. The engaging stories and questions allow both children and parents to get drawn into a story together, and often times it creates a family dialog long after they go home. The highlight of Breakfast with Books is that every single member of the family gets to take home a “forever book” to add to their home library.
“Watching a child thoughtfully choose a book to take home is one of the greatest joys for sponsors, volunteers and STWN employees,” said Habighorst. “They are so excited to read it to their siblings and parents at home. We need this to happen for every child.”
- Books on Break brings books and story time to community sites where children gather in order to keep them engaged during the summer months and help avoid the “summer slide.” All of Spread the Word Nevada’s programs, along with help from the community volunteers and sponsors, are designed to raise the literacy rates for Nevada’s children. Although there are many schools still on the waiting list, STWN works hard to provide each of its schools with the books and resources needed to bring students closer to full reading comprehension.
- Books & Buddies is a multi-generational reading program developed to improve the literacy skills of at-risk children by partnering them with volunteer mentors acting as reading companions. Working together, the volunteer and student focus on improving the child’s reading proficiency, comprehension, and oral reading skills.
Why does this matter?
While we all know instinctually why reading and access to books matters, there is data that shows how Spread the Word has made a difference for Nevda's kids. In a recent study focused on the Books & Buddies program, they found that: pre- and post-test assessments of reading performance showed statistically significant increases for Books & Buddies participants in these areas:
- Average words correct per minute (WCPM) increased from 66 (pre) to 94 (final post)
- Participants saw an average increase of 28 WCPM compared to 15 for the control group
- Average accuracy increased from 93 percent (pre) to 97 percent (final post)
- Average comprehension increased from 58 percent (pre) to 91 percent (final post)
Improvements were noted among all groups of participants, regardless of grade level, age, ethnicity, gender, or status as an English Language Learner.
How can you help?
Visit the Spread the Word Nevada website for information on volunteer opportunities, community book drives and sponsorships. Together, with the help and generosity of people like you STWN will forever change the lives of Nevada’s children and their stories, one book at a time.