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Hundreds of nonprofit organizations are working throughout the United States to help children read well. Nonprofit organizations are providing tutors for children, organizing book drives, and assisting teachers to instill the love of reading in children. Here is a sample of these efforts.

The Arts Education Partnership

The Arts Education Partnership, representing more than 100 national organizations, researched the role of the arts in early childhood.

Under the philosophy that play is the business of young children, the partnership study found that the arts engage children in learning, stimulate memory, and facilitate understanding. Role-playing games, poems, songs, rhyming, dramatic storytelling, and other creative arts play can develop language skills and a love of learning.

The partnership’s report, Young Children in the Arts, includes developmental benchmarks and appropriate arts activities for children from birth to age 8.

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More arts resources, research, and programs are available through the database of the Wolf Trap Institute for Early Learning Through the Arts at (opens in a new window).

Association for Library Service to Children

The Association for Library Service to Children (ALSC), a division of the American Library Association, serves children from birth to age 14 and their families and caregivers.

ALSC encourages librarians to form partnerships with schools, museums, Head Start centers, health care providers, churches and synagogues, and other community groups. Librarians and community health centers are reaching out to new and expectant parents on the importance of reading daily to their child through national programs like Born to Read.

ALSC is also a partner with many public television programs that promote reading and literacy.

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Cartoonists for Literacy

Cartoonists Across America & The World uses its members’ artistic talents to promote literacy among children. Artists have painted murals on reading in 49 states and many different countries, often painting in shopping malls, on walls and billboards, buses, trucks and vans, bookmobiles, and a 53 foot truck trailer in front of the Library of Congress. The Library’s Center for the Book is a sponsor of the 1999-2000 campaign, “Building a World of Readers, Artists and Dreamers.”

Artists also write and illustrate books and comic books to encourage reading. The aim is to entice children away from television and into the world of art, books and music.

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Center for the Study of Books in Spanish

The San Marcos campus of California State University hosts the Center for the Study of Books in Spanish for Children and Adolescents. The center aims to help more children develop an early love of reading and to become lifelong readers.

The center offers workshops and publications, and boasts an 80,000 volume lending library of children’s books in Spanish, believed to be the world’s largest collection of its kind. The library also includes books in English on Latino culture.

The center offers a free searchable database of 5,000 recommended books in Spanish from publishers around the world. To assist Spanish-speaking parents and others, information on each book is provided in Spanish as well as in English, including subject headings, grade-level, bibliography, and brief descriptions.

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Child Care READS

Child Care READS is a new national campaign that introduces literacy development to nurturing child care programs for young children. Child care providers are trained to develop appropriate language and literacy skills. The caregivers then use a wide variety of books to read to children during the day and encourage parents to build skills at home.

Child Care READS also promotes after-school and summer reading programs for school-aged children. While the campaign focuses its efforts on the child care setting, it also engages libraries, organizations, businesses, and the community to help all children become competent readers.

Everybody Wins!

Arthur Tannenbaum, a retired New York executive, had a simple idea-why couldn’t adults take time to read with children one-on-one during their lunch hours? Through Everybody Wins!, the foundation he started in 1989, office workers, police officers, executives and Members of Congress are now doing just that.

Adult volunteers spend one hour per week reading for pleasure with an individual child. A school coordinator manages the volunteers and schedules the reading time with the child, often during what Everybody Wins! calls the “Power Lunch.”

Everybody Wins! has 2,100 volunteers from 70 organizations serving 1,800 students in the New York-New Jersey-Connecticut area, and a total of 4,500 volunteers nationally, including ten United States Senators.

Family Place Library

Family Place Library is a national project operating programs in six communities. The Family Place Library in Centereach, New York recruits parents and child care providers to bring young children to the library for learning fun, beginning at birth. The schedule is chock-full of fun events and learning opportunities that involve singing, dancing, nursery rhymes, computers, math, science and of course, reading.

This library also provides Storytime Kits for parents and child care providers to use in their homes. The kits include books, videos, puzzles, puppets, and activities. Educational toys, including adaptive toys for children with disabilities, are also loaned to families and caregivers.

This program offers learning opportunities based on family strengths, cultures, and interests. The Family Place Library, a joint venture between New York’s Middle Country Public Library and Libraries for the Future, is funded by the Hasbro Children’s Foundation.

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First Book

First Book’s primary objective is to distribute books to children participating in community-based tutoring, mentoring, child development and family literacy settings. First Book also works with national literacy partners such as America Reads to provide new books to children most in need.

Since the organization’s beginning in 1992, First Book has provided more than 4.5 million new books to hundreds of thousands of children nationwide. In 1998 alone, First Book distributed more than 2.4 million books. First Book is active in more than 215 communities throughout the 50 states and the District of Columbia.

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Girl Scouts: Read to Lead

The Girl Scouts are inspiring girls throughout the country to “Read to Lead.” Girl Scouts are encouraged to read for pleasure, to learn about prominent women, to write stories and plays, and to volunteer to help younger students with their reading skills.

The Scouts’ Web site, Just for Girls, offers monthly theme activities, authors’ biographies, and a new “Girl Scouting in the School Day” kit.

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Hawaii Education Literacy Project (HELP)

The Hawaii Education Literacy Project designs free software to promote literacy. Their goal is to use the instruments of technology to multiply the potential of each child to read. The software may be used by educators for one-on-one sessions as well as by independent students.

The HELP Read software supports both English and Hawaiian language and has many features for the beginning reader. For example, it highlights words or sentences while reading, looks up word definitions, allows customizing of reading speed, pitch, and volume, and links to nearly 500 classic works of literature.

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Home Instruction Program for Preschool Youngsters (HIPPY)

HIPPY is a home-based, early intervention program. It assists parents in laying the foundations for their children’s success in school. The two- to three-year program for parents targets preschool children ages three, four, and five.

Through home visits, group meetings, role playing and structured activities, parents are provided the tools and support they need to help their children build school readiness skills. Parents spend approximately 15-20 minutes each day, five days per week, doing HIPPY activities focused on language development, problem solving and discrimination skills.

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Imagination Library

The Dollywood Foundation’s Imagination Library promotes early learning by encouraging and enabling families to read together. Long committed to dropout prevention, the foundation has responded to research showing that investment in early childhood can build a strong foundation for school success.

Administered by singer and actress Dolly Parton, this innovative program provides free books to families in her home region in Tennessee. Each baby born in Sevier County receives a special locomotive bookcase and a copy of The Little Engine that Could. The child then receives a new book each month until he or she begins kindergarten at age 5, for a total library of 60 books. The program has distributed more than 100,000 books to 5,000 pre-kindergarten children.

The Imagination Express, a specially designed train, is driven by The Imagineer, who reads aloud and promotes reading at child care centers and community events throughout the Sevier County region.

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International Reading Association

The International Reading Association is an organization whose members include classroom teachers, administrators, parents, reading specialists, psychologists and students. The Association has more than 90,000 members in 99 countries, and the group issues more than 100 print and non-print publications. The association’s professional journals include The Reading Teacher, Reading Research Quarterly, and Reading Online, an electronic literacy journal.

In addition to the energy that the Association puts into published research, the group works to increase the level of literacy for people across the world through enthusiastic promotion of reading.

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Jumpstart recruits college students to help children who are struggling in preschool. The mentors are paired for almost two years with 3- and 4-year-olds in Head Start or other programs for children living in poverty. The Jumpstart mentors work one-on-one with children to teach and reinforce basic academic and social skills.

Jumpstart serves children in Boston; New Haven, Connecticut; New York City; Washington DC; Los Angeles; and San Francisco. The program aims to engage 1,000 college students as mentors to reach more than 12,000 children by the year 2000. Mentors may receive stipends or wages through AmeriCorps or the Federal Work-Study program.

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The National Center for Hearing Assessment and Management

Hearing loss is a significant risk factor for reading difficulties. The National Center for Hearing Assessment and Management (NCHAM) was established in 1995 at Utah State University to promote the earliest possible detection of hearing loss and the best possible techniques for assisting people with hearing loss.

Only one in five newborns today is screened for hearing impairment. More than 500 hospitals offer these screenings, and five states operate universal hearing screening programs. NCHAM works to build momentum toward universal newborn hearing screening.

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Parents As Teachers

Parents as Teachers (PAT) is an international family education program for parents of children from birth through age 5. Parents learn to become their children’s best teachers. Evaluations have shown that PAT children at age 3 have significantly enhanced language, problem-solving, and social development skills. PAT parents read more often to their children and stay involved in their children’s education.

The program has four main components: 1) home visits by trained parent educators; 2) group meetings for parents to share successes, concerns, and strategies; 3) developmental screenings to determine early if a child needs assistance; and 4) families’ connections with community resources, including lending libraries, diagnostic services, and help for children with special needs.

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Principals in Blue Ribbon Schools

Innovative principals across the nation are striving to raise reading achievement for all students in their schools. Some take a school-wide approach by engaging non-teaching staff and teachers from other disciplines. Others are pairing children from different grades to read together. Many are reaching out to parents and the community to support young readers through extended learning time after school and in the home. Creative events and book challenges inspire students and motivate them to read more often.

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Reach Out and Read

Developed at Boston City Hospital by Dr. Barry Zuckerman, Reach Out and Read is a national pediatric literacy program that trains pediatricians and volunteers to read aloud to children as part of their well-baby check-ups. The doctors also “prescribe” reading as essential to raising a healthy child from infancy through age 5.

At each check-up, the child is sent home with age-appropriate books, and parents are encouraged to develop the habit of reading with their children. This trailblazing program, with over 350 sites in 45 states, relies on funding from businesses and private foundations, in addition to book donations from publishing companies.

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Read Across America Day

The National Education Association unites millions of Americans through Read Across America Day on March 2, the birthday of beloved children’s author Dr. Seuss. On this annual celebration of reading, all citizens are asked to read with a child.

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Reading Is Fundamental (RIF)

Reading Is Fundamental (RIF) is the nation’s largest nonprofit children’s literacy organization, serving 3.5 million children annually at 17,000 locations. In recent years, RIF’s volunteer corps has grown nearly 10 percent, to 240,000. RIF involves children in reading-related activities, encourages families to participate in their children’s education, and enables children to select free books.

Among its many innovative programs, RIF has a partnership with the Mississippi State Department of Health called Healthy Start/Smart Start. Rather than using candy or tote bags as incentives for immunizations of small children, state health clinics are distributing books. Every child who is immunized receives a free book, and any accompanying siblings are also offered a book. Volunteers read with patients and coach parents on the importance of reading. Up to 60,000 poor children could be reached annually.

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Reading Success Network

The Reading Success Network is a national network of schools actively pursuing schoolwide change to propel the reading achievement of every student. Schools join the network and identify a coach, who receives ongoing support, training, and materials, and participates in a Leadership Forum.

Coaches work with classroom teachers to provide powerful instruction in reading that allows all children to succeed, including those at risk of reading failure. Publications, a Web site, and a listserv support teachers, administrators, and parents at local Reading Success schools.

The Reading Success Network is operated by the U.S. Department of Education’s Comprehensive Assistance Centers, a network of 15 regional centers designed to improve teaching and learning for all.

Based in California, the network is aligned with Every Child a Reader, the report of the California Reading Task Force, and Teaching Reading, the program advisory.

Rolling Readers

After noting the profound effects of reading aloud to his own son, the late Rolling Readers founder Robert Condon volunteered to read to children in a homeless shelter. Condon recognized how rewarding it was both for him and the children.

Rolling Readers volunteers now read weekly to thousands of children and distribute books to the children at least three times per year. In 1997-98, 40,000 Rolling Readers served 250,000 children nationwide.

Volunteer Readers donate an hour each week to read to a classroom of children. Twice a year, each child in the program is given a complimentary, personalized copy of a quality children’s book. In 1998, more than 300,000 books were distributed to disadvantaged children nationwide.

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Screen Actors Guild BOOKPALS

This organization tapped into its talent bank to bring the joy of reading to children in schools. The Screen Actors Guild Foundation’s BookPALS (Performing Artists for Literacy in Schools) utilizes the talents of professional actors who volunteer to read aloud one day a week to children in public elementary schools.

Founded in Los Angeles in 1993 by former Mission Impossible television star Barbara Bain, BookPALS is reaching more than 35,000 children each week in more than 825 school classrooms in New York City, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, San Diego, Phoenix, Seattle, Minneapolis/St. Paul, Denver, Baltimore, Boston, Las Vegas, and Washington, DC.

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Adapted from: Ideas at Work: How to Help Every Child Become a Reader. (July, 1999). America Reads Challenge, U.S. Department of Education.
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