|FwP Volunteer Meghan Nash reading at First Step Home in Walnut Hills|
Every week, the kids at First Step Home shelter don’t want us to leave, and they definitely don’t want us to stop reading! The My Little Library volunteers walk into the room, and someone says “Time for story time!” and the kids, ages 3 through 6, gather on little chairs on a green rug in front of a sunny window. They are hungry to hear stories and when they connect to one, the focus and concentration on their faces is amazing to behold. They love to exclaim and count and yell out what they think will happen on the next page. "The Old Lady Who Swallowed A Fly" was one of their favorites. All the kids were on their feet, little fingers pointing at the pages, extremely amused by the idea of an old lady swallowing a cow or a horse, repeating “No way!” and bursting into infectious peals of laughter. The way they react to and engage with stories just confirms that they are no different than their housed peers. Research tells us that reading with kids is one of the most important ways to get them ready to attend school, and will help them do well academically later on in life. But, reading with the kids at My Little Library sessions has shown me that reading provides so much more than that. It offers kids new words, new worlds and the opportunity to have social interactions about what they see in the books. It also provides an irreplaceable bonding experience for families. One father, at another local homeless shelter, recently told me that every book that his children receive from My Little Library, he is keeping safe for the day that they are in their own home and can read them together at bedtime, in their own beds. Laughter, curiosity, wonder and hope are brought out by books and provide a glimpse into the interesting and full lives that await these extraordinary kids.