RICHMOND, Va. -- If you give a child a book, you give a child a chance. CBS 6 is on a mission to put more books into the hands of kids in our community who don't have access to a wide variety of reading resources at home.
Bill Fitzgerald and GeNienne Samuels spent National Read a Book Day at Fairfield Court Elementary in Richmond where they voiced hope that viewers would give students a chance to grow their literacy skills by donating to the "If You Give a Child a Book..." campaign.
No one knows the important role books play in a child's education better than our community's librarians.
Kimberly Berry-Hale is the librarian at Woodville Elementary School who sees the impact books can have on children every day.
“We have a lot of kids who are behind what they're reading, even if they've been in kindergarten and they've made up to third grade, their scores are still low, we found this in testing,” Berry-Hale told CBS 6 anchor Bill Fitzgerald. “We realized that when you don't have books to read or people haven't been reading to you, you don't develop the language skills you need. And a child becomes kind of fearful because you don't want anyone to know you can't read, so you don't tell anybody you can't.
Berry-Hale said she has also witnessed the difference in children’s reading skills when someone at home has made sure to read to them.
“You can tell, because a lot of children are excited if you mention something, and they'll say, ‘I learned about that,’" said Berry-Hale. “Then they'll tell you and they tell you and they tell you and they tell you. Then maybe get someone else interested too. That's helpful to not only to them but everybody else."
Berry-Hale said she has seen a spark in a child’s eye when they find something they’re really interested in.
“In the library, when they come in and they found something that they want or they're interested in, they know exactly what they want, and they go towards that section or ask you, ‘Do you have any books on, let's say, Fish or Mermaids?’” Berry-Hale said. “It's exciting when you see the light bulb go on, and kids want to read something. They have so much joy when they find that right book."
But she is also aware of the harsh reality many children in her school face. Families simply don’t have the resources to provide books to their children, most of whom qualify for federal programs including free- or reduced-price lunch.
“If you're a Title 1 school, the main concern is, ‘How am I going to pay my rent? How am I going to get food?’ said Berry-Hale “So books are the last thing that anyone seems to be thinking about. We've had book fairs before, where some kids aren't able to buy a book. While we've had donors actually give for those children, it's heartbreaking when you know everybody should be able to get a book, but they can't, because they just don't have the funds for it.”
When Fitzgerald asked Berry-Hale about her joy in seeing children making a beeline for the section of books that interests them, she talked about how her own experience has informed her work as an educator.
“I grew up in Richmond also, and my family didn't have a whole lot either,” she said. “So I understand where they're coming from. I remember reading and being able to go to places I hadn't been before and always being, I don't know, excited just to have books. I’m still excited about books now. I want every child to be able to share that feeling of being able to go out, get a book, read, and go somewhere you might not ever go, or somewhere you might get to eventually just because you read about it.”
Berry-Hale said the availability of books impacts when children start to read and understand words.
“Not everybody's reading at the kindergarten-first grade transition,” said Berry-Hale. “And that's okay. But your reading and my reading might be two different things at different stages. So to see when they catch onto those words and want to read everything is not only exciting for us as educators, but it's exciting for that kid. Because when you finally start to read everything, it's like, ‘Who knew all this was out here?’ It's great to see.”
Berry-Hale also spends time in Richmond Schools’ Lit Limo, a retrofitted school bus that acts as a roving library on wheels. It visits each elementary school and community center every week and every child that climbs aboard gets a book to keep and a Richmond library card.
“Last year we had a little boy get on, and he searched and searched and searched,” said Berry-Hale. “And he was like, ‘Oh! Here It is!’ And we were like, ‘What is it?’ And he comes out and he's holding his book up and he runs to his mama and he goes, ‘Here's the book I need. This is the one I need.’ I thought, ‘Okay, he needs that book.’
"In the library, when they come in and they've found something that they want or they're interested in, they know exactly what they want and go towards that section, "
Woodville Elementary School librarian Kimberly Berry-Hale said. "It's exciting when you see the light bulb go off and kids want to read and the joy that they have when they've found that right book."
Drew, Remy, Lindy and Billy Moraca know the importance of reading. The Midothian family treasures the simple things in life, like spending time together. On Labor Day, when they could choose toys or TV during their day off from school, these kids pick something different for their entertainment. They head to their bookshelf. It’s a family event. The Moracas read together, out loud.
The Moraca family teamed up with the Murray family to create a Little Free Library in their neighborhood, a way to share books with children, adults, and anyone who would like something to read.
These neighborhood libraries are made possible by families, and the non-profit The Little Free Library, which spans 120 countries with over 150,000 libraries and 300 million books shared.
Each year, WTVR and the Scripps Howard Fund partner with local schools to reach underserved children living in poverty, with a special focus on the critical kindergarten through third grade years when children are still learning to read. When children have access to reading materials that represent different abilities, cultures, beliefs, races and ethnicities, they influence attitudes toward those differences. Simply put, “If You Give a Child a Book …” you give a child a chance.
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