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The Power of Words

Posted: May 23, 2022 — This year’s celebration of Children’s Book Week fell between May 2nd and 8th. Established in 1919, Children’s Book Week is the longest-running national literacy initiative in the country. It was created to promote the many tangible benefits of reading to children with the idea that exposure to children’s books and literacy skills can be life changing. In fact, research shows that by the age of two, children who are read to regularly display greater language comprehension, larger vocabularies, and higher cognitive skills than their peers. Research also shows that in the United States just under half of children between birth and five years are read to every day by a family member or caregiver. Additionally, there are marked disparities between socio-economic classes in terms of communication and interactive language with children. The average child from a professional family hears 215,000 words per week; a child from a working-class family hears 125,000 words per week; and a child from low-income family hears 62,000 words per week. These differences are thought to be key contributors to the achievement gap that exists when children enter Kindergarten. By the time First Grade begins, that gap continues to grow; children from lower socio-economic status families can lag up to two years behind their peers.

How can these disparities be addressed?  One way to improve the reading achievement for all children, particularly for those that are in lower income homes, is to increase awareness of the benefits of interactive language, and to provide greater access to books.  To that end, this semester FMCC students who are enrolled in Children’s Literature are engaging in a wide range of assignments and projects to encourage and foster reading and early literacy.

Areas of high poverty, where children have limited access to books, are referred to as book deserts. FMCC students will be participating in community service projects to promote and encourage reading in the local community, working to bring awareness about literacy, and greater access to books. One initiative is creating and donating literacy kits to the Gloversville Public Library that will become part of their lending library to promote emergent literacy at home. Focusing on a central theme, each has a guide along with range of suggested activities and materials that kids and their families can engage in. They were created using books that were collected through donations, and partially funded by Friends of the Gloversville Library and the FMCC Foundation. In addition, students will be creating book boxes that will be available to children and families in local laundromats.

As important as reading is, sometimes families, and even schools, have limited resources or access to books for children.  If you are a reader, helping others learn to love to read is an amazing gift to share. Please consider donating gently used children’s books to support the efforts of FMCC students and the Early Childhood Education Program. Contact Erica Gonzalez Gauer for more information at egonzale@fmcc.edu.

This article was written by Erica Gonzalez Gauer is an Assistant Professor of Early Childhood Education at FMCC.

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