EERC's Families & Books Program
In 2005, shortly after retiring as a Title I teacher in Springfield, EERC board member Gayla Clark decided to continue working with low income families to advocate for the importance of reading with their children. She wanted to meet with parents of preschoolers, so she contacted Headstart and similar organizations. They welcomed her to their meetings were she gathered the children and demonstrated how to engage them in a read aloud. After the story, the preschoolers and their siblings each choose a book or two and went to another activity while Gayla talked to the parents about ways to read with their children and how important it is for school success.
Since then Gayla and her committee of faithful Emerald volunteers have gathered gently used books from many sources and our council budgets money for books. Another Emerald member was instrumental in setting up a partnership with the Emerald Empire Kiwanis who have supplied hundreds of books so that the committee now gives out four or five per child.
In 2009 Gayla took some of her grandkids to a nearby Springfield park that participates in the lunch in the parks program. Looking around, Gayla realized that here was another opportunity to get books into the hands of children—older children. After hearing well-known expert and past IRA president Dick Allington speak at the February IRA Regional Conference in Portland about the importance of summer reading, Gayla decided to expand the EERC Families & Books program to reach older children. Allington states, with research to back him up, that if children are provided with 10-12 books of their choosing and read them during the summer, it is as effective as summer school in improving their reading skills. She immediately contacted the parks department and, again, was welcomed with open arms.
So, as if Gayla Clark and her committee didn’t have enough to do visiting preschool programs and talking to low income families about the importance of reading to their children, they have been visiting Springfield parks in the summers to read to children there, armed with books donated by teachers and by the Emerald Empire Kiwanis.
Inspired by the success of Gayla’s “books in the parks” program, Emerald board member Lynn Woodworth decided to start a similar program in Florence for the summer of 2011. To learn how she organized her program and how it went, read “Kids, Warm Food, Cool Free Books."