Data on Literacy Rates and Frequency of Parents Reading to Kids Motivates Launch of Program to Get More Books to Families

Author: Jake Cowan and Tom Kingsley
Date Posted: August 29, 2011

In the 2000 Communities Count Report, South King County residents were found to have read to their children less than residents in other parts of King County. In South King County 58 percent of Communities Count survey respondents with children age 2-5 read or told stories to them every day (or had a family member do so). This compared with a King County average of 70 percent. The South King County Raising Readers program was developed in 2000 in response to this finding. The program was initiated by Public Health Seattle-King County in collaboration with King County Library, King County Children and Family Commission and the Highline School District to provide early literacy resources and children’s books to families served in Public Health clinics, libraries and schools. The goal of the program is to increase the frequency of parents reading to their young children, which has been shown to support brain development and school readiness.

The South King County Raising Readers Program consists of three types of activities:

• Providing guidance to families about the importance of reading and telling stories to young children to support brain development to families enrolled in Public Health programs (Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) program and Maternity Support Services), and providing them with children’s books.

• Building and maintaining strong linkages between literacy efforts of civic groups, community service providers, school districts, libraries, and Reach Out and Read sites throughout South King County, in order to share best practices and maximize resources available to the communities served.

• Developing and expanding current early literacy efforts to reach a larger segment of the target population, notably low-income, non-English speaking families.

The program has received donations of over 14,000 books with the potential to reach over 4,000 children in South King County. Through the program’s collaboration with King County Library System, families gained access to information in multiple languages about their local libraries, and had the opportunity meet children’s librarians during a story time or special literacy event held at the Public Health clinic. The ongoing early literacy efforts of multiple agencies throughout South King County have become more unified which resulted in better utilization of available resources and increased opportunities to share best practices. Partnerships have developed to better serve specific community needs, including non-English speaking families. This program has been successful in raising funds to continue these efforts.

This story was initially published in Stories: Using Information in Community Building and Local Policy in June 2007.

This story was written by staff at the Urban Institute, drawn from documents and interviews with Sandy Ciske and David Solet of Public Health – Seattle & King County and the South King County Raising Readers program. Public Health – Seattle & King County is the Seattle partner in the National Neighborhood Indicators Partnership, a learning network in 30 cities coordinated by the Urban Institute. All partners ensure communities have access to data and the skills to use information to advance equity and well-being across neighborhoods.

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