More than 120,000 children’s books on 16-wheellers rolled into the Student Life Plaza at Miami Dade College’s Wolfson campus in Downtown Miami in anticipation of a Monday news conference calling for a renewed commitment to children’s education, and especially to literacy. The news conference was attended by representatives of The Children’s Trust, The Center for Literature and Theatre @ Miami Dade College, American Federation of Teachers, First Book, United Teachers of Dade, United Faculty of Miami Dade College and corporate sponsor Property Markets Group.
The diverse partnership came together to get books into the hands of Miami-Dade children from low-income families through The Children’s Trust Read to Learn Books for Free program as well as direct distribution to local teachers who waited patiently until the news conference was over to sift through the 40,000 books reserved for them by their labor union to take back to the classroom.
“It is inspiring to see the commitment to reading and childhood education from this partnership help meet the critical literacy and education needs in our community,” said City of Miami Mayor Tomas Regalado, who opened the news conference. “Books are an essential foundation for motivating children to explore, dream, and achieve their full potential.”
National research indicates that in moderate to upper income neighborhoods there are roughly fourteen books for every one child, but in low income neighborhoods there may only be one book for every 300 children. This is why The Children’s Trust set out to put more books in the hands of children who have little access to them. Earlier this year, they launched Read to Learn Books for Free with the Miami-Dade College Center for Literature and Theatre to place shelves stocked with new and gently used books in highly visited locations, such as government benefits offices, low-income housing sites, public health clinics, and other places where families gather. Children are urged to take and keep one book from the shelf to help build their home library. Book donation drives provide the 3 thousand books needed weekly to keep more than 20 shelves full, with the goal of doubling that number next year.
Companies like Navarro are supporting the effort by holding book drives in all of their Miami-Dade stores in December and Kevin Maloney, CEO of Property Markets Group, who announced at the Dec. 9 news conference that he would step up to pledge additional funding for even more books to benefit Read to Learn Books for Free through the national book bank known as First Book.
“Thanks to this partnership and especially to Property Markets Group and The Children’s Trust, who each generously donated funding to pay for an entire truckload of books for a combined total of 80,000 to the Read to Learn Books for Free program, we are now able to put new books on our shelves and into the hands of children who might have little or no access to them,” said Lissette Mendez, director of programs at The Center for Literature and Theatre @ Miami Dade College. As the leading funder of direct service programs for children and families in Miami-Dade County that already have a significant focus on literacy, it was a natural fit for The Children’s Trust to serve as the catalyst for Read to Learn, a countywide grade level reading initiative now entering its third year and inspired by a national effort spearheaded by the Annie E. Casey Foundation.
“We have earmarked an additional $2-million a year towards this initiative with the goal of dramatically increasing the number of children reading at or above grade level by the 3rd grade,” said Charles Auslander, President and CEO of The Children’s Trust, “ But we know we can never do this alone, which is why we have partnered with Miami-Dade College, The Miami-Dade Family Learning Partnership, The Early Learning Coalition, Target, the FIU Center for Children and Families, United Way, The Children’s Movement of Florida, and so many others, to create the necessary communitywide effort to move the needle.”
In the months to come, this collaborative effort will seek to secure additional private sector support to fund additional truckloads of books and to host book drives to keep Read to Learn in the spotlight and introduce children to the love of reading.