Community Columns

Anne Britton: Here’s how you can give a gift that lasts a lifetime

Wishing for a better county? Help is on the way.

Stanislaus READS! is a multiyear initiative to address the low literacy rate in Stanislaus County. Why should you care? Here’s why.

The economic health of the region depends on the educational level of its residents. In Stanislaus County, 25 percent of job seekers do not have a diploma or GED. Literacy levels are a problem for employers who need literate employees.

The problem doesn’t start with high school; it starts well before third grade. Stanislaus READS! targets having 90 percent of the county’s third-graders reading at grade level by 2020.

Third grade is being emphasized because that’s when a child makes the switch from “learning to read” to “reading to learn.” A child who doesn’t make that switch by the end of third grade is unlikely to ever catch up.

Without experience with books or how sounds match the ABCs, and low exposure to a wide vocabulary, children might feel more frustration than excitement about starting school. They can see themselves as too dumb to learn as they fall behind classmates. It can become a self-fulfilling prophecy if they give up.

Stanislaus READS!, a program through the Stanislaus Community Foundation, is offering help through a number of “school readiness” programs.

The Friends of the Modesto Library also has a way to help: books!

Putting more books into the hands of more children in their early years is key to reading success in school and continued success and opportunity in the economic world.

Books are the tools to build a successful student. With 61 percent of children from low-income households having no children’s books in their homes, you can see that the need is great. That 62 percent of 3- and 4-year-olds do not attend preschool also limits their exposure to books.

Only 53 percent of Stanislaus County’s young children, from birth to age 5, are read to every day. This limited access to books and exposure to the enhanced vocabulary they provide is viewed by Stanislaus READS! as one of the prime challenges to school readiness.

One way to help is through “Wish Lists” for local agencies that serve youths: the Children’s Crisis Center, Haven Women’s Center, Hutton House, LearningQuest’s Family Literacy Program, Parent Resource Center, Red Shield Center, Redwood Family Center, Sierra Vista Child & Family Services – and Stanislaus READS!

At the Friends of the Modesto Library’s annual Scholastic Book Fair – Nov.4, 5 and 7 – each agency, along with the Modesto Library, has a “Wish List” of books to go into homes throughout our county. The Book Fair is not only a fundraiser in support of library programs; it also provides this opportunity for the community to fulfill the wishes of many children and their families for more books in their homes.

It is in all of our interests that the children of Modesto and Stanislaus County come to school not only ready to read, but wanting to read. You can help. Come to the book fair. Go beyond just wishing for a better county. Buy a little success for a child. Buy a book. Give the gift of reading to our county’s children. Make wishes come true.

Anne Britton is a director at large of Friends of the Modesto Library.

Scholastic Book Fair

  • What: Friends of the Library Scholastic Book Fair
  • When: Wednesday, Nov. 4, from 4 to 7 p.m.; Thursday, Nov. 5, from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.; Saturday, Nov. 7, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Clifford the Big Red Dog will appear Saturday at 1:30 p.m.
  • Where: Modesto Library Auditorium, 1500 I St.
  • Who: Friends of the Modesto Library in support of the library and its programs.
  • Why: To help the daunting number of Stanislaus County children who do not have access to books in their homes.