Book Nooks help bring reading within reach
Sunday, June 16, 2019
Families with grade-schoolers and preschool children sometimes inadvertently put reading on the shelf, too busy with activities and errands to sit down for a story. But a new literacy coalition effort is designed to place books within their reach.
The READ ENC Community Literacy Coalition this week launched its Book Nook initiative, installing shelves stocked with children’s books in several area locations where children and families may spend time waiting. More than 1,000 children’s books are now available to parents and children to read at 12 pediatric health care providers’ offices as well as in laundry facilities at Oakmont Square and Carriage House apartments.
“We always hear parents say, when we talk about the importance of reading every day and what a difference it makes, that it’s time. We don’t have time,” said READ ENC Executive director Terry S. Atkinson, an associate professor in the College of Education at East Carolina University “We can turn waiting time into reading time; that’s how this project is framed.”
Dr. Caroline Morgan of Pirate Pediatrics was among the first to sign up for the new project.
“Reading is such an important part of children’s lives,” said Morgan, whose office is one of a handful of local practices that is part of Reach out and Read, which provides free books during well visits. Since 2012, Pirate Pediatrics has given about 1,200 to 1,500 books a year to patients age 5 and younger.
“When (READ ENC) wanted to offer to come and bring more books and bring a setup and encourage more reading, we welcome that ,” Morgan said. “We believe reading not only helps promote academic performance in children but it also promotes bonding between the parents and the families.”
Modeled after a similar program that is part of Philadelphia’s READ by 4th initiative, Book Nook is a collaborative effort that includes United Way of Pitt County, ECU, Reach Out and Read, Sheppard Memorial Library, Martin-Pitt Partnership for Children and READ ENC.
It is headed by former teacher Sara Mitchelson, a volunteer for READ ENC. Mitchelson, who taught reading to elementary students in Pitt County Schools for 20 years, said Book Nook is one of three efforts that READ ENC has identified as early priorities, along with promoting summer reading and school attendance.
“Children need access to books,” Mitchelson said. “It’s a start.”
To help launch the project, Books for Better Outlooks, a literacy nonprofit charity organization with chapters at ECU and in the Triangle, provided 1,200 books. Taff Office Equipment Co. provided book shelves at cost, also providing assembly and delivery. Other partners in the project included the Tar River Reading Council, Friends of Sheppard Memorial Library and the Kids Read Now summer reading program. The Book Nook project also received a $500 grant from Walmart.
Board books, chapter books and fiction and non-fiction picture books are available for families to share while using waiting areas. Book Nook titles are geared for grades three and younger.
“This is one of the strategies for improving kindergarten readiness,” Atkinson said. “... Our ultimate goal is to make sure that every child in Pitt County is reading on grade level by grade three because we know that’s that crucial benchmark.”
Book Nooks also include information about resources, including online registration for Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library book distribution program. Read ENC volunteers will maintain the Book Nooks, checking locations every other week to make sure that books remain in stock and in good repair.
Atkinson said businesses ranging from restaurants to barbershops have expressed interest in hosting a Book Nook. READ ENC expects to launch the project at another half a dozen locations next month.
“Any place that parents and children wait, we would be happy to entertain as a possible future location,” Atkinson said. “The more community investment we have in this the more locations we can roll out.”
For more information, visit readenc.org.