A Smart Partnership: Cleveland Reads and Big Brothers/Big Sisters
One of the pictures we hold in our minds during these unfortunate and difficult times is a home with hungry children and an empty pantry, but, did you know that a home without books is nearly as detrimental to a child’s well-being as a home without food? According to Cleveland Reads, there is a direct correlation between the number of books in a child’s home and the child’s preparedness to enter kindergarten.
The situation is even more dire in urban areas. For example, in more affluent suburbs there are 3,000 books readily available to every one child. In a city like Lorain or Cleveland, that number is reversed with only 1 book available to every 3,000 children.
Locally, Cleveland Reads has teamed up with Big Brothers/Big Sisters of Lorain County to improve literacy and provide books to at-risk children from kindergarten to fifth grade. Big Brothers/Big Sisters has a solid reputation of providing mentors to Lorain County children along with staff and volunteers who have already been through extensive background checks. Seeking ways to add structure to their afterschool programs in 2007, Big Brothers/Big Sisters invited Cleveland Reads in to train their teen-aged mentors as literacy tutors. During one meeting per month, the board games and basketballs are traded for Lit Kits for Kids, packets of children’s books and materials for the “Bigs” to use with their “Littles”. On a visit to Westway Gardens in Elyria, Jeff and Kavon were busy reading Danny and the Dinosaur. Kavon read aloud with Jeff encouraging him along the way while other pairs played charades and other games designed to help their reading comprehension and build vocabulary. “Working with their “Bigs” on their reading skills allows the children to increase their confidence in a safe, non-threatening environment,” says Robin Sullivan, Project Manager for Cleveland Reads. The Community Foundation is pleased to have made a grant of $13,000 to Cleveland Reads for the second year of this collaborative program.
Each child participating has his or her reading skills assessed before and after the program year. “The goal is for each child to improve his or her skills by at least one grade level,” says Sullivan. Each program year concludes with a festive ice cream social, gift cards to book stores for the teenaged volunteers, and books for each “Little”, for some, the first they’ve ever owned.