As a child, reading topped my mom’s list of priorities. Every evening she would read to me and if she was away, my grandparents or my aunt would step in to make sure that this important part of my evening routine was filled. When I turned 8 or 9 years old, we started taking turns reading to each other. During dinner or on car rides home, my mom would ask me what I thought about a character or what she missed in the last chapter. I realize now that as an educator it was her sneaky way of making sure I was doing my required 30 minutes of daily reading and, more importantly, that I was comprehending what I was reading. It was a tradition I cherished and practice with my own children.
The week of October 24th marks our 5th Kindergarten Book Giveaway, an annual event that was inspired by my mom, who through her 40 years of work in education, has seen the important benefits of children who were read to at an early age. This year we’re giving approximately 800 Pico Rivera kindergarten students a bag each filled with 10 books. At each school assembly, we empower the students to carve out a well-lit space in their home and build their very own literacy library. We also encourage parents to read with their child and stress the impact it makes in their child’s academic future and parent-child bond.
But this event has a more significant meaning that extends beyond receiving books. It gives us an opportunity to highlight how important it is for children to maintain, and hopefully surpass, their required reading level by third grade. This milestone is a huge benchmark as research shows that students who can’t read on grade level by 3rd grade are four times less likely to graduate by age 19 than a child who does read proficiently by that time. And if poverty is a factor, then studies show a student is 13 times less likely to graduate on time than his or her proficient, wealthier peer.*
While Generation 1st Degree-Pico Rivera has established successful college access programs at the high school level, we realize the importance reading comprehension is at every grade-school level. As such, our vision extends beyond the immediate smile of a 6-year-old student receiving a bag full of new books today, to a young adult receiving his or her college diploma in the future.