Column: Children discover that Reading Rocks!I visited Rosa Parks Elementary School's preschool classroom in Mankato, Minn., for a Reading Rocks! Day in November.
I visited Rosa Parks Elementary School's preschool classroom in Mankato, Minn., for a Reading Rocks! Day in November. Reading Rocks! is one of Southern Minnesota Initiative Foundation's early childhood programs providing books to children attending SMIF's AmeriCorps LEAP early childhood partner sites.
Through a partnership with Mankato-based ABDO Publishing, SMIF's AmeriCorps members use a series of books — this year they are all about farm animals — to engage children in the fun of stories and promote routine reading at home.
Members work with classroom teachers to connect to classroom themes, and, in some cases, include field trips to farms when possible. At the end of the day, each child receives a copy of the book to take home to keep and engage in further reading with parents.
Members continue to stay connected with the parents through activities and notes home to support developing the reading habit to build bonding and literacy skills for school readiness.
ABDO's grant of 5.184 books ($103,922 value) allows each of the 820 students in SMIF's 24 AmeriCorps classrooms to take home six books through the year. For many of these students, these are the only books they personally own.
When I attended the event, I was joined by DeMar Borth, president, and Angela Bruning, sales and marketing manager, from ABDO. We watched the children react to the new book during the class circle time. Since it was close to Thanksgiving, the book was about all turkeys. As soon as AmeriCorps member Lauren Kross pulled out the new book, the children's eyes lighted up, as they instantly recognized that it was similar to "the buffalo book," the first ABDO book they read in class and were able to take home.
I am excited about the work of our AmeriCorps LEAP members in making the Reading Rocks! so special for these children. We know that their efforts are making a difference to many at-risk children across our region.
During this season of thankfulness and giving, we are especially thankful to SMIF's donor partners who make these programs possible. We also appreciate our many individual donors whose gifts allow SMIF to invest in our region's early learners.
If you believe as strongly as we do in our work around early childhood (as well as entrepreneurs), we invite you learn more about SMIF and how you can support our efforts as www.smifoundation.org.
As always, I welcome your comments and questions. You can reach me at email@example.com or507-455-3215.