Grow A Reader: Because Books Still Matter

In the digital age, children’s books for early readers can seem like an archaic, ineffective tool when compared to tablets with flashy buttons, interactivity and animations to promote literacy. At Southwest Human Development, we know that books are not only a traditional way to get children introduced to reading and vocabulary, they’re essential tools to a child’s healthy development and future school success.

Using books as a tool for interaction has many positive implications for a child’s development. Early Literacy Specialist, Kaitlin Parr explained, “Using a book can help develop a child’s fine motor skills, whether that’s grasping a book, turning pages, it supports physical development.” Additionally, Kaitlin noted that books support social-emotional growth as well as vocabulary acquisition. “The physical interactions that happen when reading books help with developing relationships. When you read a book with a child, it often allows you to use words not typically used every day, so the more you talk to a child, the more words they have in their little word piggy bank.” The University of Chicago noted that the number of words a child is exposed to in their first years is directly related to their success in school: more words generally results in positive academic outcomes.

Picture a child playing on their tablet. Are they talking or experiencing any reciprocating emotions? If they’re anything like my nephews, they are fully tuned out of the world around them, and it often takes several, ascendingly louder beckons of their name, sometimes even a physical nudge to get their attention. When we’re reading books together, however, we are engaged in identifying things, reactions or words they haven’t seen before, laughing at the goofy main characters’ missteps, enjoying their triumphs and talking about the plot, a process called “volleying.” This process is an important component of their emotional development, and it is unlikely to be effectively recreated by technology.

Books are not just a luxury, they are a necessary tool for children’s development and future success. Unfortunately, far too many underserved communities do not have sufficient books for their children. A Scholastic article on book access refers to a study that found classrooms and libraries in low-income schools had 1/8 the amount of books compared to their middle-income counterparts.

So, knowing how important a tool that books can be, how can the community support our children? Let’s get as many books into their hands as possible. Southwest Human Development is partnering with many local businesses to Feed the Need to Read through our Grow A Reader Virtual Book Drive

Several companies are demonstrating their commitment to early literacy by offering matching grants for donations. PNCMountain America Credit Union and Libraries, Ltd. are offering $13,000 to support the Grow A Reader effort. Local restaurants El ChulloEl Charro HipsterJewel’s Bakery and CaféShort Leash and Spinato’s are feeding the need to read by making a donation for certain menu items that are purchased throughout the month of May. Our other company partners, Arizona Central Credit Union, Century 21 Arizona Foothills, GM, Lane Terralever, CVL Consultants, National Bank of Arizona, Charles Schwab, Tek Systems and Lavidge, are championing literacy internally and on their social media.

What can you do? 

1. Patronize our partners, 2. Share about the importance of early literacy and 3. Donate books! 

With the community’s help, we know we’ll be able to reach our goal of raising 15,000 books for kids. And when we do, we’ll be giving them out for free where they’re most needed. Donated books will also accompany our literacy specialists as they provide opportunities for families to learn about how to build up their home libraries and foster their child’s love of reading with programs like Raising a ReaderLet’s Talk Dads and Reach Out and Read.By donating a book on our virtual shopping cart, you are not only planting seeds for a lifelong love of learning, you are opening a child’s mind to new experiences and new worlds. Join us in feeding the need to read and growing our littlest readers into book lovers!