Ready Readers is an outcome-based solution to ensure children grow up with a strong sense of self, purpose and belonging by tackling the issues of poverty by providing a strong foundation in early literacy for children, ages 2-5, in low-income communities to set the stage for educational success while engaging the community members to part be part of the solution and giving free, new, high-quality children’s books, literacy-based fieldtrips, professional development workshops, and resources to the early childhood classroom.
In a ground breaking study this year by Washington University and Focus St. Louis, "For the Sake of All: Improving the Health and Well-being of African Americans in St. Louis," their number one suggestion for our community is to invest in quality early childhood development for all children. And, in their For the Sake of All Action Guide, they conclude that the number one activity that a person can do as a volunteer to strengthen our community is to read for Ready Readers.
Ready Readers’ mission has stayed the same over the years, but our impact on early literacy for each child has increased. Our mission is to inspire preschool-age children from low-income communities to become readers by reading aloud to them, increasing their exposure to quality books, and providing literacy-related experiences.
For the 2015-2016 school year, Ready Readers trained, placed, supervised and supported 542 volunteers who read weekly to 10,000 preschool-age children from low-income communities attending 180 early childhood centers in the St. Louis area. Our program is unique. The volunteer reads to the same classroom of children every week at the same time, creating strong bonds and relationships between the volunteer, the children, the teacher, the families and the center. For the children, having the same, positive role model consistently in their lives for at least a year centered around a love of books and reading has created high, measurable outcomes for the children we serve.
Our volunteers are provided with a 90 minute training session at the Ready Readers office, on-site mentoring, cell phone access to staff members, and high-quality standards and curriculum shared on the Ready Readers website and Face Book page. This year, we started the Ready Readers University, which includes workshops and smaller Readers’ café sessions available several times a month for our volunteers. We also have a Mentoring Corps of 36 volunteers (primarily retired school teachers) who work with and support the volunteers during their read-aloud sessions in the classroom.
At the weekly read-aloud sessions, each volunteer reads aloud 2-3 books and teaches an emergent literacy activity to the same class of children, at the same time every week, allowing the children to associate a special person with the fun of reading. In addition, Ready Readers gives each child seven new, personalized books annually with a “Notes for Home” section, designed for follow-up with the family.
Six times a year and once in the summer, Ready Readers gives a high-quality, award-winning, personalized children’s book to each preschool-age child and their teacher in the program. We have a large committee of early literacy experts, who choose seven titles, based on quality, vocabulary, diversity, and enjoyment by children. We purchase 10,000 copies of each of these seven titles directly from the publisher, and the publisher imprints a personalization area, our logo, and a “Notes for Home” section inside each book. On this special gift book day, our volunteers read aloud the book, surprise the children with their own personalized copy, and then reread the book, showing the children how to hold it, turn pages, and follow the story. The classroom teacher also receives a copy of the gift books with extension activities. This past year, Ready Readers gave more than 65,000 new books to the children and the teachers in our program.
Hundreds of teachers also participate in Ready Reader professional development workshops, based on using high-quality children's literature to teach emergent skills in the classroom. All receive clock hour credits from the state of Missouri and Illinois for participating. Ready Readers provides six Saturday workshops a year at the St. Louis Community College, plus our workshops for the public schools, United4Children, and for the Missouri Workshop Calendar, sponsored by ChildCare Aware of Missouri.
More than 5,000 of our children annually attend a free literacy fieldtrip based on one of our gift books to the Magic House, St. Louis Children’s Museum, and this year we started a twice weekly free “Storytime Science with Ready Readers” program at the St. Louis Science Center. We also piloted a “Book-A-Day” program for 4 classrooms that were identified. We are expanding this pilot to 8 classrooms next year. We write a monthly column for the local newspaper with reviews of quality children's books centered around why reading aloud to young children is vital.