Books for the Border and Beyond is an innovative project that harnesses the power of churches (and other groups) to provide beginning home libraries to communities where families lack reading materials at home.
But we don’t just pull up in a truck, dump a load of books, and call it a day. Instead, we plan a celebration–a family reading fair. The idea is for parents and children to connect with churches and helpful resources from the local community, to have fun, and to celebrate reading. Family reading fairs include some great activities:
- Volunteers reading to children–for their enjoyment and as a model of read-aloud techniques for parents
- Children selecting 10 to 20 new and used books
- Families receiving new Bibles and health literacy books
- Children selecting new, brightly-painted bookcase
- Families decorating bookcases together with stickers and paints
By the end of the day, families possess a beginning home library and have formed connections with the sponsoring church or group and with resources in their own community that will last long beyond that day. Parents have been encouraged and equipped to read to their children, setting them up for success in school and for a future filled with hope and promise.
The why of Books for the Border and Beyond
Literacy Connexus champions early literacy. The focus of our efforts is encouraging and equipping parents to read to their infants and small children.
Why this approach?
Research shows that the foundations of literacy and learning are laid during infancy and toddlerhood, with families functioning as the first language teachers. ( Zero to Three, National Center for Infants, Toddlers, and Families).
Building a culture of literacy starts in the home, but, too often, low-income parents lack the means to acquire books.
According to the American Federation of Teachers, 2009, a middle-income child enters first grade having 54 age-appropriate books in the home, and having been exposed to about 1,000 hours of one-on-one picture book reading time. A low-income child enters first grade with zero to two age-appropriate books in the home, and having been exposed to about 100 hours of one-on-one picture book reading time.
By age three, the low-income child will have been exposed to one-third the amount of words the middle-income child has heard, and the resulting language gap will widen as they progress through their school careers.
By third grade, according to a brief by the Pre-K Coalition, supporter of The Campaign for Grade-Level Reading, students without a basic level of competency are more likely to struggle academically and have behavioral and social problems in subsequent grades. The report includes National Research Council data showing that the likelihood of a student graduating from high school can be predicted with reasonable accuracy by knowing his or her reading competency at the end of third grade. Children in poverty account for 70% of those who do not graduate from high school.
There is a direct link between a lack of books in the home–via children not being ready for kindergarten, and, subsequently, not graduating from high school–to families stuck in generational poverty. By providing beginning home libraries, the Books for the Border and Beyond project is a strategic first step in developing family literacy programs, ultimately resulting in lifting families out of poverty.
What is the single most important thing to do to address poverty in the United States? According to Tom Prevost, retired, Cooperative Baptist Fellowship Global Missions Office: “Literacy.” What is the single most important thing to do to improve literacy? “Getting babies ready to read by the time they’re toddlers.”
We believe that every child deserves to grow up in a home with books.