Supporting Early Literacy

Read to your children. The message from the research couldn’t be clearer. Children whose parents read to them develop language skills earlier, learn to read in school faster and more easily, and ultimately do better in school. 

But children from poor and minority households are much less likely to get this rich, early exposure to reading. Often it’s because those parents don’t have books or convenient access to libraries, and they may not have been read to themselves as children and so may not realize its value.

For almost 10 years, the Alamance County Partnership for Children has been funding the Dolly Parton Imagination Library program in seven elementary school districts. The program provides children from birth to five years of age a new, age-appropriate book every month. Once the family is registered, the book simply comes in the mail.

But the Partnership didn’t have the funds to offer it to all children in Alamance County. In 2015, an Impact Alamance grant enabled the Partnership to extend the program to all families in the county.

“We had about 750 kids before Impact Alamance’s grant,” says Carrie Theall, executive director of the Partnership. After receiving the grant, the Partnership enlisted community partners, including the Burlington Police Department and Alamance Regional Medical Center, to get more kids signed up. Now, more than 1,900 children are participating, and the number continues to grow.

In addition to the Dolly Parton Imagination Library, Impact Alamance has also funded Reach Out and Read, an evidence-based program that encourages early childhood literacy. That program, which was started by the Partnership with Smart Start funds, enlists pediatricians to talk to parents about the importance of reading to their young children, and provides doctors books they can give to their patients. 

Reach Out and Read was launched at Burlington Pediatrics. Dr. Hillary Carroll, one of the physicians there, is using the Impact Alamance funding to enlist other pediatricians at other practices.

“When you do something that’s this inexpensive and this easy, it’s not a cure-all,” ... “but it sure is a big help and it’s going to make a big difference.”
— Carrie Theall, Executive Director of the Partnership