Braving inclement weather as some much-needed rain swept through the Bay Area on Monday, scores of Mission Promise Neighborhood (MPN) families donned rain jackets and streamed into the ornate Women’s Building for some much-needed community support, in the form of books for kids.
Explaining the choice of books as gifts, MPN Family Success Amelia M. Martínez C. stated, “There were a number of community toy drives scheduled in the Mission for the holidays, but MPN chose to make the gifts educational. It’s important for our low-income families to have access to books. Books may not be the first thing parents buy — books can be out of reach when you’re on a tight budget. Today MPN is helping families instill learning.”
Partnering for the event were the San Francisco Public Library and Tandem, both knowing that early learning is strongly tied to long-term academic success. Tandem’s mission to “spark joy and close the opportunity gap” was clearly met, as evidenced by the smiles on families’ faces as they chose their books for holiday presents.
Book offerings ran the gamut from fiction to nonfiction, historical novels to whimsical tales. Age brackets started at newborn and headed up to eighth grade.
MPN Early Learning Family Success Coach Ada Alvarado, who helped coordinate the holiday event, knows the importance of parents reading to their children. “It’s essential to develop a passion for books at as early an age as possible. It’s all about vocabulary building. Parents can do things as simple as asking open-ended questions or pointing things out, so as to elicit responses in their children. Books are the ideal way to facilitate such learning.”
Alvarado’s statement is backed up by myriad studies. Just last year, an American Academy of Pediatrics policy statement, “Literacy Promotion: An Essential Component of Primary Care Pediatric Practice,” claimed that “reading regularly with young children stimulates optimal patterns of brain development and strengthens parent-child relationships at a critical time in child development, which, in turn, builds language, literacy and social-emotional skills that last a lifetime.”
The policy statement also delineated the following incisive data:
- Every year, more than one in three American children start kindergarten without the language skills they need to learn to read.
- Reading proficiency by the third grade is the most important predictor of high school graduation and career success.
- Approximately two-thirds of children each year in the United States, and 80 percent of those living below the poverty threshold, fail to develop reading proficiency by the end of the third grade.
- Children from low-income families hear fewer words in early childhood and know fewer words by three years of age than do children from more advantaged families.
The Mission Promise Neighborhood Survey in 2014 found that 64 percent of families in the Mission are reading to their children three or more times per week. This is something to celebrate! MPN aims to ensure that the initiative’s partners continue to improve that number and get to 100 percent. Also, it is imperative to start this process as early as possible, since the MPN team knows that this is critical to brain development and vocabulary building.
There were plenty of books, neatly stacked on tables and grouped for age appropriateness, for MPN families to work toward that goal. Hundreds of books, actually.
To garner such a significant donation, it was Children’s Book Project to the rescue. For over two decades, this organization has been replenishing libraries in schools, public health centers, daycare centers, homeless shelters — anywhere there is such need. All books are free, with some new and others “gently used.”
With arms laden with books — and even one infant carrier serving as a shopping bag, filled to the max–departing families were also offered a gift bag teeming with goodies. This included free passes to a trio of local kids’ venues: the Asian Art Museum; the Bay Area Discovery Museum; and the Cartoon Art Museum.
MPN parents left knowing there would be gifts for the holiday … and that the gift of learning would be part of their kids’ futures.