Imagine the possibilities if every child in Spalding County began kindergarten ready to learn.

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What is the Ferst Foundation for Childhood Literacy?

OUR MISSION:
“PROVIDE BOOKS FOR LOCAL COMMUNITIES TO PREPARE ALL GEORGIA PRESCHOOL CHILDREN FOR READING AND LEARNING SUCCESS.”

THE ISSUE:

  • We know that approximately 61 percent of low-income families do not have a single piece of reading material suitable for a child.
  • Over 25% of Spalding County child live in poverty.
  • In Georgia, a third of our children come to school unprepared to learn
  •  75 percent of students who are poor readers in the third grade will remain poor readers in high school.
  • One in four adults in Georgia operates at a low literacy level
  • Low literate workers cost Georgia businesses $7 billion a year.
  • Children entering kindergarten display marked differences  in their ability to learn, their familiarity with books and language, and their confidence level.

In short, long before a child has experienced formalized education, there are already children far ahead of the curve and even more lagging far behind. Playing “catch up” is a very difficult proposition both for the child and the teacher.

THE INCENTIVE:

  • A growing body of research suggests that from birth on, the home learning environment of a child tremendously impacts his or her short-term and long-term reading capability .
  • Children develop much of their capacity to learn in the first three years when their brains grow to 90% of their eventual adult weight.
  •  The Department of Education emphasizes the importance of a child’s interaction with his/her environment rather than intelligence as a key factor in determining the ease with which a child will learn to read.
  • National Research Council states that just as a child develops language skills long before being able to speak, the child also develops literacy skills long before being able to read.
  • Literacy skills include letter names and shapes, associating sounds with letters, familiarity with books, associating reading with love and fun, strong background of understanding what language is used for, and a broad vocabulary are all key areas of development.
  • Children must hear language and learn what words mean to develop vocabulary and background knowledge. If a child is read to for 30 minutes a day from birth until age 5, he or she will receive 900 hours of literacy preparation. Take that away, and the child has five years of literacy skills to catch up on when entering kindergarten.

THE ANSWER:

  • Leading economists say that money put toward early-childhood programs offers the greatest returns and may be the best form of economic development out there.
  • The key is to start at birth.  To immerse a child in a literacy rich environment can be a stronger predictor of  academic achievement than family income.
  • The more words a child hears, the larger the child’s vocabulary, and the larger the child’s vocabulary, the more likely the child will be a proficient reader.

However, in order to read with a child, one must have books in the home.  When a child is trapped by initial difficulty,  the consequences of failing to build an adequate foundation for reading are stunning.

  • 88% of children who have difficulty reading at the end of first grade display similar difficulties at the end of fourth grade.
  • 75% of students who are poor readers in the third grade will remain poor readers in high school.

The Ferst Foundation for Childhood Literacy cannot address all the issues of early literacy; however, we can eliminate one of the reasons parents do not read to their child – the availability of quality books in the home.  Books delivered not just once, but 60 times in the child’s critical years of development.

No matter how good teachers are, it is almost impossible for a child who begins school unprepared for learning to equal the academic success of a child who enters school prepared.

THE ACTION PLAN:

Robin Ferst formed the Ferst Foundation for Childhood Literacy in 1999 to help children achieve success in education and in life.  Originating in Morgan County, Georgia the foundation’s goal was established to send age appropriate books to all children under five in Georgia.

The Foundation strives to improve early childhood learning for every child regardless of income, race, religion, or gender as any child who cannot read is at risk.

Children registered for the Ferst Foundation for Childhood Literacy program receive books in their homes every month via U.S. mail until their fifth birthday.  If they are registered as soon as they are born, each child will receive up to 60 free books for his/her own personal library!

A committee composed of individuals from education, child development, academia and early childhood literacy has carefully selected the books chosen for this home library. Read to Me, is the first book each child receives and Kindergarten, Will I have a Friend? is the final “graduation” book that a child receives when he or she turns 5.

Age-appropriate books are sent each month to registered children in conjunction with a monthly newsletter, which provides a book guide, child activity page, and opportunities for local community literacy announcements.

The program is free to participating families with children age birth to 5 and is made possible through partnerships with over 70 local Community Action Teams such as Spalding County Ferst Foundation for Childhood Learning.  Funding for the $28.00/child/year program cost is organized through private donations, corporate sponsorships and grants. As partners, we can help prepare every Georgia child for success in school and in life.