In 2009, a group of members of the Prince Edward County Arts Council sat down to discuss the low literacy scores of children in the County. Under the umbrella of the Arts Council, we resolved to take steps to ensure that every child in the community not only had access to books, but ownership of them as well. We modeled our initiative on successful programs such as Prescription to Read in the United States and the Toronto Children's Book Bank. With a few volunteers and a very modest budget we began distributing books.
County Kids Read now works with several existing programs, which serve the needs of low income families and at risk children with the aim of layering literacy into these programs. County Kids Read provides books, and works with project partners making literacy a priority. County Kids Read is effective without creating a new organizational structure. In this delivery model, County Kids Read is both effective, innovative and unique.
Prince Edward County literacy scores are significantly below the provincial standards as assessed by the Ministry of Education (EQAO)
The EDI ( Early Development Index) results reveal that 37.3% of children in the County present as vulnerable on one domain or more. Low EDI (or being vulnerable) is an indicator of a child’s inability to learn ( Vital Signs Report 2018)
74%of struggling readers in grade three will never be able to catch up (The Children’s Reading Foundation, 2018 )
Those children not a grade level in Grade six have an 82% chance of never graduating high school
Median family Income in the County falls below the provincial norm ( Vital Signs Report, 2018)
Studies indicate that children from low income homes have no or significantly fewer books than children on middle class homes. For example, children from low income homes have one title per 300 children while children in middle class homes have approximately 14-20 titles per child ( Neuman& Celano,2011)
Research indicates that literacy acquisition is linked to having books in the home. And that access to books has both an immediate and long term impact on children’s academic and socio- economic outcomes. Books in the home are as important as parents’ education in determining children’s education level (Dr. Mariah Evans University of Nevada, 2010)
frequently asked questions
Why don’t low income families use the library?
Low income families are far less likely to utilize public libraries , whether it is because they are not acclimated to using them or because they are worried about being charged late fees. Neuman found that only 8% of such families use the library and its resources.
County Kids Read has found the uptake on free books to be phenomenal. This success of CKR strikes down the notion that low income parents don’t care about their children. They care deeply . What these families lack are resources to enable their children to be successful.
Isn’t this the school’s problem/concern?
Of course, the focus of schools is on literacy but literacy acquisition is multi- faceted.
Another important facet in literacy acquisition is linked to having access to books. County Kids Read gives free books to children ensuring that there are books in the home and easy access to books.
Having books in the home develops children’s appreciation and love of reading.
How do we know that our program is being successful?
The answer to this question circles back to the research findings cited above. Namely, that access to books has a lasting. positive impact on children’s socio-economic and academic outcomes. Without early childhood interventions, such as our program , low literacy is generational (ABC Life Literacy Canada, 2018).
We also monitor the EDI scores and the EQAO scores but of course cannot quantify with certainty our program’s impact as there are many variables relating to these scores.
Our operating model provides immediate and ongoing feedback to ensure that we are meeting the need of our community partners.
We are currently distributing upwards of 500 books per month.