Children who are introduced to reading early on tend to read earlier and excel in school compared to children who are not exposed to language and books at a young age (American Academy of Pediatrics). Reading promotes greater maturity, increases discipline and lays the basis for moral literacy. It sparks curiosity about people, places and things and also satisfies the child’s curiosity by providing explanations of how things work. It exposes the child to a range of problem-solving techniques. In addition, early reading ignites the child’s creativity and imagination. New College Institute’s Reading for Life program seeks to bring the love of reading to underprivileged Kindergarten children and increase literacy skills and self-confidence for life.
New College Institute’s Reading for Life program is implemented at 16 elementary schools across three districts: Martinsville City Schools, Henry County Schools, and Patrick County Schools. Community volunteers are given the opportunity to serve as readers in local Kindergarten classrooms once per year. Each student is then presented their own book to take home and share with their families. Students are encouraged to have their parents or caregivers read the book to them at home. Many local Kindergarten teachers share that this is the first time that many students receive a book they can call their very own. Putting engaging and appropriate grade level books in the hands of our youngest students is a vital component since many of them live in families below the poverty line who may not have access to books or time for engaging in family reading practices. Reading for Life does not only foster exposure to literature and the development of reading skills for underprivileged children but more importantly, it encourages a lifelong love of learning and reading.
700 Kindergarten students will participate in the Reading for Life program
700 Kindergarten students will take home 1 book
45 volunteers will participate in the Reading for Life program
NCI has continuously received very positive feedback from school staff and Reading for Life volunteers:
Cameron Cooper, Principal of Patrick Henry Elementary School, stated, “The Reading for Life program is an amazing opportunity for my school to connect with our community. Having community leaders come read to the Kindergartners at my school and provide them with a book to take home is an exciting experience for all! I love seeing how thrilled each student is when they realize they are able to keep the book the reader gives them!”
Toni Williams Manns, a Kindergarten Teacher at Drewry Mason Elementary School, said, “Reading is the major foundation of all learning. The Reading for Life Program is an excellent opportunity for each student to listen to and read books in order to help them begin to build their own reading foundation.”
Sharon Shepherd, Deputy Director of M-HC Chamber of Commerce and Executive Director of the Education Foundation, shared, “The Martinsville – Henry County Chamber of Commerce’s Education Foundation is honored and eager to partner with New College Institute in their Reading for Life program. Reading is important because words, both spoken and written, are the building blocks of life. Being able to visit all of the kindergarten classrooms in Martinsville and Henry County to read and pass out books to every child is vital to not only their future success but, to the future success of our business community. Our hope is that the book each child takes home will lead them to a love of reading.”
Evaluations are based upon volunteer, teacher, and student feedback through observations and interviews. Volunteerism, student participation, and book attainment are tracked on the day of program implementation with school sign-in procedures and attendance records.
The New College Institute’s Reading for Life program serves between 700-800 kindergarten students annually and has served thousands of students since 2007. Participating schools are located within three school districts: Martinsville City Schools, Henry County Schools, and Patrick County Schools. The sixteen elementary schools include: Albert Harris Elementary, Patrick Henry Elementary, Axton Elementary, Campbell Court, Drewry Mason Elementary, G.W. Carver Elementary, Meadow View Elementary, Mount Olivet Elementary, Rich Acres Elementary, Sanville Elementary, Stanleytown Elementary, Blue Ridge Elementary, Meadow of Dan Elementary, Patrick Springs Elementary, Stuart Elementary, and Woolwine Elementary.
Although the school student populations cover a wide range of demographics and socioeconomic statuses, Patrick Henry Elementary and Albert Harris Elementary have the highest need for reading intervention. Patrick Henry Elementary is ranked 937th of the 1,097 Elementary Schools in Virginia, with 99.2% of students eligible for Free and Reduced Lunch, a standard indicator of poverty. The demographic breakdown of students is 56.9% African American; 33% Caucasian; 4.3% Two or more races; 3.2% Hispanic; 2.4% Asian; and 0.3% American Indian. Albert Harris Elementary is ranked even lower, at 944th of the 1,097 Virginia Elementary Schools. 99.2% of students are eligible for Free and Reduced Lunch. The demographic breakdown of students is 66.8% African American; 14.6% Hispanic; 12.5% Caucasian; 5.7% Two or More Races; and 0.3% American Indian.
Volunteers for the program include retired educators, legislators, New College Institute staff, University faculty, Chamber of Commerce Members, Community Leaders, Community groups, such as Altrusa, as well as students in our Longwood University at NCI education and Social Work programs.
The Reading for Life program encourages volunteer opportunities for all organization members. Volunteers have a chance to read a book to a class of Kindergarten children and distribute books for them to take home to their families. At least 45 volunteers will be required in order to successfully reach all 700 Kindergarteners impacted by this program. This experience can change a child’s life forever, introducing young children to appreciate and love the written word.