Kids Can Reimagine with Books

Better Access to Storytime Opens Real and Imaginary Doors

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When a child hears a story they love, it can be magical.

Stories open new worlds. Kids are able to reimagine places, ideas, and themselves as anything they want. Early reading ability is also the foundation for all learning. Math, science, technology, history – all of these subjects require kids to have strong reading skills.

That may be one of the reasons that research shows the single most significant factor influencing a child’s educational success is an early introduction to books.1 Even more importantly, studies demonstrate that reading proficiently by third grade leads to higher rates of graduating on time2--and earning a high school diploma helps kids avoid incarceration3, find a job that pays a sustainable wage4, and live a healthier life.5 

Yet too many children enter school without even the basic skills they need to learn to read, especially children in under-resourced areas (*link to post 1*).If we want all kids to be able to be successful in school and go on to pursue higher education and stable jobs, our community must come together to help children build early literacy skills. 

Together with volunteers in the community, Read 20 (a Chattanooga Basics *link to read and discuss stories page* partner) gives more kids the chance to develop these important skills. The mission of Read 20 is to be “a public-private partnership whose mission is to create a community of readers by promoting the importance of reading with children at least 20 minutes a day or more.” Their specific goals center around closing the literacy gap, educating parents on the importance of early literacy skills and reading in the home, getting children to grade-level literacy proficiency standards by the end of third grade and building an enthusiastic attitude towards reading in both parents and children. 

Read 20 has a couple of different ways of achieving these goals, the chief way being ReadMobile. ReadMobile, a brightly-colored, kid-friendly library-on-wheels, makes regular visits to schools, parks, daycare centers and housing authority locations to host read-aloud storytimes for children and their families. When storytime ends, each child gets to select a book to take home with them and keep. The ReadMobile also takes trips to local businesses to educate and encourage employees to read aloud with their children at home. Read 20 also sponsors neighborhood ‘libraries,’ modeled after the Little Free Library (*link*). Volunteers construct and fill these libraries with books for kids to stumble upon, borrow, or keep permanently. With the help of generous community members, Read 20 plans to place one of these libraries in every Hamilton County neighborhood!

The results of Read 20’s work in our community are highly encouraging. Since 2006, Read 20 has distributed over 898,106 books in our community, lead over 135,298 hours of storytime with the help of 1,211 volunteers, and placed over 18 Read 20 neighborhood libraries. Additionally, they’ve provided literacy trainings for schools and childcare centers, coordinated 1,584 extracurricular opportunities for modeling read-alouds, and successfully encouraged multiple area elementary schools to assign 20 minutes of daily reading as homework for students.

We’re thrilled by the success of Read 20, but know that there is still more we can all do. We are looking for volunteers to help instill a love of reading in the next generation of our community’s students. Are you ready to help? There are several ways to get involved with early childhood literacy in our community! 

  • Donate your new or used children’s books. Drop them off at the Read 20 office (317 Oak Street, Room 109).

  • Volunteer to read aloud to children on a ReadMobile trip (link to form).

  • Volunteer to ‘host’ a Read 20 library! Build a creative library box for your neighborhood, and Read 20 will fill it with books (see the Little Free Library Website for examples *link*). Reach out to the Read 20 library contact person for more information at this address: 

Join your neighbors in reimagining storytime to make a difference in the lives of local kids. 


1National Commission on Reading

2Donald J. Hernandez, Double Jeopardy: How Third-Grade Reading Skills and Poverty Influence High School Graduation. The Annie E. Casey Foundation; Center

3U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics

4U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

5Center for Disease Control and Prevention

6National Assessment of Educational Progress

7Reading Literacy in the United States: Findings from the IEA Reading Literacy Study

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