Fort Morgan, Colorado, is a farming community where crops like wheat and sugar beets grow. Farming can be challenging there, however, as the eastern plains of the Rocky Mountains are a literal water-deprived high desert. Fort Morgan is also historically challenged to grow more important crop—that of young readers. Morgan County, with only 27% of homes likely to have 100+ books, is also identified as a Book Desert. That’s about to change as across this small community, businesses and individuals are stepping up for early literacy.
Within the last few weeks, several good corporate citizens of Fort Morgan have banded together to establish a Growing Readers program for their preschoolers. Their goal is to ensure that the approximately 250 four year olds known to be headed for Fort Morgan’s Kindergartens next fall will receive four books every week between now and then, ensuring that each family with a Kindergartener will have their very own library of 100+ picture books by the day school starts. ( Click here for a short video about the project.)
The nice round figure of 100 books comes from solid research data (including some from the National Assessment of Educational Progress) that shows the single most important factor related to a child reaching the level of “Proficient” in reading by 4th grade is not family education or income. It is having 100 books in the home.
Unite for Literacy (located in neighboring Fort Collins, CO) has the honor of supplying the books and helping deliver associated reading activities to the children and their families. Plus, families will have access to its digital library of over 400 books—a virtual space where families will be able to hear books in English, as well as in their home languages.
Given that the Fort Morgan community is made up of people from more than 20 nations, having book narrations in all of their native tongues is vital to the success of this program. Of course we’re always interested in talking with people who speak English and other languages about contributing to the library’s book narrations. (Please contact me about that at firstname.lastname@example.org.)
If you are a single language speaker like me, you can still contribute to this first-ever, grassroots, family literacy development program by pitching in what you can afford using the Fort Morgan Community Funded page at https://ftmgrowingreaders.communityfunded.net/. If the program proves successful, as the research suggests that it will, it could become a model for communities like yours to adopt or emulate.
There is no longer a question that together, communities everywhere can UNITE like this to Grow Readers…in Fort Morgan and around the world!
Do you know of other grass roots efforts to eliminate Book Deserts and promote early literacy? Please share!