Thursday, January 17, 2013

My Little Library: A Place for Young Bookworms!

         Often, children who are experiencing homelessness are staying in homeless shelters with their families. It is difficult for these children to do their homework, or even to just read a book. It might be too noisy, busy, or they may not even have a book to read at all. Additionally, their parents may be dealing with housing, employment, financial and health issues, and reading books with their children may become less of a priority.  
      Many children are lucky enough to take for granted having someone to read with them, to help them spell out words, read in silly voices, and turn the fresh pages of a brand new book they’ve never read before.  Do you remember your favorite books when you were a child? There are probably too many to count. The choice a child makes in choosing his or her favorite book is one of the first ways of establishing each unique personality and a love of words.  The world becomes theirs to explore.
     All children deserve the opportunity to choose their favorite book. The more choices you give a child, the more likely they will be to have options to choose from later on in life, and to know which option is the most positive. One-on-one reading time is also linked to higher reading comprehension later in life. Reading comprehension is incredibly important to every subject a child will learn, even mathematics.
      “Children who have not already developed some basic literacy practices when they enter school are three to four times more likely to drop out in later years.”   National Adult Literacy Survey 1993.
     There is substantial research linking one-on-one reading hours with reading comprehension.  One reading expert, Dr. Connie Juel, found that “only 10% of students who read poorly at the end of first grade ever read proficiently in later grades.”    
       Faces without Places is committed to breaking down barriers to education for children experiencing homelessness and lack of access to books and one-on-one reading time outside of school is one of those barriers. As an action towards that initiative, I am putting together a reading program in which one on reading experiences will be provided to kids in transition at local homeless shelters weekly by FwP volunteers.

     Barnes & Noble in Kenwood was kind enough to do a book drive for the program and their customers picked out and donated over 300 brand new books. As I sort through them, I am coming across books that were my favorites when I was a little girl, like Goodnight Moon, The Hungry Caterpillar, and many more. They are all so beautiful and I can not wait for the kids to comb through them and connect with different characters and narratives.  I am naming the program "My LIttle Library" so that the kids and volunteers will feel like they are borrowing books from a library that is just for them. There are also books like the Hunger Games, Charlie and the Chocolate factory, and Harry Potter for the last twenty minutes of the session so that kids will have a chance to hear their volunteer friend read from a book that might be a little too challenging (but not for long!) for them to read themselves. "My Little Library" will not be just about reading, but will also incorporate fun experiences with art, writing and drawing  their own stories, acting out their favorite books and expressing themselves in many different, fun ways.

       Over the next few weeks, little libraries will open for "business" at Bethany House Services in Westwood/Cheviot, followed by IHN Cincinnati, and then First Step Home, both in Walnut Hills. Others will follow but these three will be the first to get up and running. Each shelter is very different and is looking for different times and days, and also for different experiences. First Step Home houses many infants and would love for "My Little Library" to incorporate early childhood literacy elements and other creative tools.

     I am looking for volunteers who are interested in reading with children one-on-one inside homeless shelters. Skills required include: Patience, a sense of humor and a love of words. If you are a retired teacher, or in high school or college, this could be the perfect match for you! Please contact me at to receive a Volunteer Application. Stay Tuned to hear more about the "My Little Library"program and its impact on children experiencing homelessness!

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