Books Make it Better Has Launched!

Together with fellow Mom Congress delegates, Jen Barth and Renee Berry, I’m delighted to announce the official launch of Books Make it Better, our national book drive to promote early literacy! This has been quite an interesting and educational initiative and I’m so excited to get it underway. After meeting supermommas Jen and Renee at Mom Congress in April, I followed their blogs and Facebook posts about all the wonderful things they were doing in their own states. Jen had organized a community book drive in Portland, Oregon and I thought it would be wonderful to bring the idea to NJ. When I reached out to her for some tips, she had already connected with Renee. Before long, we were a national movement!

For me, this process really all began last year when I attended the Parenting magazine Mom Congress Read. Connect. Grow! event in New York City. I live about 45 minutes outside of NYC in suburban NJ. Taking a day off from my everyday life to attend an event like this is not easily accomplished and involves a complex ballet of timetables, transportation and toddlers. However this event seemed worthwhile so I made the necessary arrangements. The morning of Read. Connect. Grow! arrived and in my craziness to catch the 6:57am train, I tripped over a pile of my kids’ books as I was gathering my things. I bruised my knee, twisted my ankle and yelled out some sort of expletive! My husband came hurrying as he heard me fall (and curse!).  We had a little spat about the fact that the books were taking over (they seemed to be multiplying as the days passed). I ran out of the house determined to get organized when I got back!

I managed to reach the city without further injury. The Read. Connect. Grow! program involved a number of fine speakers, all      experts in early literacy and education. Lily Eskelsen, Vice President of the NEA, spoke about the importance of parental  involvement. Authors Brian Floca and Matthew Van  Fleet spoke about growing up in literary-rich environments. I learned that  1 in 4 US children don’t read at a proficient level, 61% of US households don’t have age appropriate books and less than half of US  children are read to daily. I also learned that these numbers far grimmer in low income households and communities.

It was Jumpstart’s Kim Davenport, though, who really changed my perspective that day. Kim told a story about a boy named  Jeffrey. Jeffrey was a 4 year old who had attended a Read. Connect. Grow! event the previous year with his mom where each  child received a free book. It was Jeffrey’s very first book. 

Read. Connect. Grow! held another event a year later (just before the NYC event I was attending) And, again, Jeffrey attended with his mom. Again Jeffrey got his book. His second.

I couldn’t believe that earlier that morning I was complaining about “too many” books in our house! I was dismayed both with my own behavior and the fact that in this country where so many have so much that a child like Jeffrey could have such limited resources. I was also inspired. I was inspired by Jeffrey’s mom who took precious time off from work to take her child to a place where he would get a new book of his own, something that she couldn’t provide for him.  I was inspired by the panelists that spoke so passionately about the fundamentals and monumental importance of early literacy. It all seemed to come down to one fact: children with access to books do better. I knew that I had to do something. I had to do my part. So began Books Make it Better-NJ. And, together with Jen and Renee, I’m hoping to spread the word about Books Make it Better across the country.

“In the end, there is no program or policy that can substitute for a mother or father who will attend those parent/teacher conferences, or help with homework after dinner, or turn off the TV, put away the video games, and read to their child.” - President Barack Obama, Address to Joint Session of Congress, February 24, 2009.

Please join our campaign so that books can make it better for every child!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Give a Little Bit

I was raised in a family of volunteers. My mother volunteered for every bake sale, book fair, and fun fair. My dad coached little league and softball. If there was a family in need, they were always there with a tray of food. If someone needed help, we raised our hands. If there was a cause that needed championing, we were there to help.

 

 

 

 

 

When I began to look for a preschool for my little ones, I wanted to find a school that would promote a sense of community. I visited every school within a 20 mile radius of my house. I literally left no stone unturned.  From the moment I walked in the doors of the school I ultimately chose, I knew my search was over. I knew it was a special place. There is a warmth that is tangible. The warmth comes from the lovely teachers and administration but also from the community, the families.

There is an old African proverb, “It takes a village.” It is our school’s mantra. Our little school relies heavily on volunteer support, particularly to foster that feeling of community. The benefits of volunteerism is threefold. Firstly, the school benefits for obvious reasons. Secondly, parents benefit by becoming part of a community. I have made some of my best friends through volunteering. Thirdly, and most importantly, your child benefits. 30 years of research has shown when parents are involved in their children’s education at home, the children do better in school. When parents are involved in school, children go farther in school and the schools they go to are better.

When parents volunteer at school, children:                                                                          

  • earn better grades
  • score higher on tests
  • complete homework assignments
  • pass their classes
  • attend school regularly
  • have better social skills
  • show improved behavior
  • have positive attitude toward school
  • graduate and continue their education

Parent involvement matters. Volunteering helps build better citizens of the world. Please do what you can. Give a little bit.