Recent News

October 22, 2015

Building Kids’ Personal Libraries to Boost Literacy, Improve Kindergarten Readiness

United Way of Greater Cincinnati (UWGC) is a key partner in a local group coming together to get more books in the hands of children from low-income families.

The effort is the first venture made possible by the Every Child Capital Fund, dedicated to investing in literacy programs targeting children from birth to age 9. The fund is held by KnowledgeWorks Foundation in Cincinnati. Current investors include: The Carol Ann and Ralph V. Haile, Jr./U.S. Bank Foundation, the Gladys and Ralph Lazarus Fund of The Greater Cincinnati Foundation, United Way of Greater Cincinnati, the Thomas J. Emery Memorial, and Duke Energy.

reading to baby in crib

Partners in the initiative are Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center (CCHMC), Reach Out and Read, Imagination Library, Cincinnati Public Schools (CPS), United Way Success By 6®, StrivePartnership, and KnowledgeWorks Foundation.

"This project will empower and support parents in building the reading habit with their children at home through access to books, literacy tips and conversations with their health care providers about early literacy," says Ross Meyer, vice president, Community Impact, UWGC.

It combines Reach Out and Read at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center with the Imagination Library book distribution program. Pediatric health providers will enroll children in the Imagination Library so they receive a free book by mail each month from birth to age five. "This is designed to help low-income families with young children build home libraries and increase the likelihood of home reading, and to better prepare children for kindergarten," says Meyer. "It will also create a powerful database for early childhood education partners – United Way Success By 6®, CPS and Children’s Hospital – to enable CPS to reach the families of incoming kindergartners, provide them with information they need to enroll their children, and to staff schools accordingly."

CPS is expected to fund the program if targeted outcomes and estimated savings are achieved following a three-year pilot. These include improved kindergarten readiness scores, improved literacy scores and expanded vocabularies for participating children; better communication with parents of incoming kindergartners about enrollment, immunizations and school start dates so that kids arrive on time and ready to learn; and fewer third grade retentions and less need for reading specialists, resulting in an estimated savings of more than $500,000 a year for CPS.