by Emily Ball Cicchini, Executive Director
About a year ago we announced a big audacious goal: to get 20 high quality children’s books in every Central Texas home by 2020. This vision is being driven by social science research that shows a statistically significant correlation between the size of home libraries and children’s future academic success. The mere presence of books at home creates a culture of learning that translates to doing better in school.
Moreover, our recent Central Texas Reading Survey revealed that only 77% of families with children under the 12 reported having 20 or more books at home. We want that number to get to 95%, or more! And we will repeat our survey each year to see if we can move that needle forward, together, as an entire community of readers.
Over the past few months, the path to how we achieve this in homes right here in Central Texas has become much clearer. Many pieces still need to fall in place, and we’re going to have to work together. If we do, the rewards for our children and our community as a whole could be immense. I’d like to share the status of this plan with you today.
All of us here at BookSpring aim to instill a lifelong love of reading in young children. We want to inspire this desire out of our deeply held belief that reading is fundamental. Linked with desire to read is the notion of increasing reading ability. The reason for children to want to read is so that they can learn to read, so that they can become fully literate and more compassionate citizens, in every sense of these words. Our programs build young brains, basic literacy skills as well as social and emotional wellness. And the world today needs more of that.
The time has come to own these efforts with names that better describe the unique ways BookSpring does them. In short, we really have just one basic program that aims to build early literacy through three different strategic sectors: healthcare, education, and community. BookSpringRx, BookSpringEd, and BookSpringGo are a continuation of the work that has been done by so many of you locally. By making small program enhancements, we can reconfigure our core methods to help us reach shifting local populations and achieve our collective goal.
Envision, if you will, in three years time, a BookSpring that is strategically balancing all its programs, partners, and resources to get the most bang for our buck. Through BookSpringRx, BookSpringEd, and BookSpringGo, we will give the most needy and underserved families in Central Texas an infusion of their choice of up to 20 gently books at a time to kickstart their home libraries. And, we will be offering literally hundreds of inspiring motivational events and activities that support the power of reading.
We want to grow our reach from an estimated 115,000 child engagements in 2017-2018 to reach all 300,000 children under the age of 12 who are living in poverty in Central Texas by 2020. All children deserve a choice of books, don’t they?
And yet, multiple studies report on the decline of reading in America from all ages and all walks of life. Less time is being spent reading, and fewer books are read for pleasure, not just to seek and find information. This is at the same time that other research supports the need for arts, music, and literature in order to develop empathy, task persistence, resilience, self-efficacy, and higher order thinking. Reading is the start of all of that.
As such, the 20 by 2020 goal seeks to not only to expand BookSpring’s direct service capacity, but to grow local awareness for the universal benefit of books in the home. There are about 300,000 children in our 100 mile service area. We want all families to become aware of the need for home libraries, and make a personal commitment to building these libraries. Some families, if encouraged to do so, can go to our partners at BookPeople or Half-Price Books and purchase books for themselves. Others can be served through public and school lending libraries, and BookSpring’s continuum of literacy programs. Still others may be served by other book-only distributions services whom we can seek to partner with in a collective community-wide effort.
The powerful statistic of 20 books in the home can help drive BookSpring to the next level, and make a positive difference on the language capacity of all children in Central Texas. This work is bigger than BookSpring alone. Still, BookSpring has a unique roll to play in motivating and inspiring our entire community to rally behind this vision. We have special expertise in children’s books and reading skills, and we do more than give books. We create transformative experiences through reading and reading aloud together. Leading our community, we can launch children into a world of reading.
I’m grateful to all of you who help insure the future academic success of Central Texas children through BookSpring. None of us can do it alone. As BookSpring continues to develop this vision of what Central Texas would look like over the next few years, full of children from book-rich homes, I invite you to reach out to me personally, visit wish us, and share your stories, dreams, and ideas.
Because no child should grow up without books.