Raising Great Readers at Epiphany Raising Great Readers at Epiphany

Raising Great Readers at Epiphany

October 15, 2014

Bay Area-based non-profit Raising a Reader is an early literacy program that helps promote family engagement and bonding with their children.  Raising A Reader’s program model is based on 25 years of academic research, and another ten years of program evaluation research, that shows the relationship between a child being read to at home before starting kindergarten, and academic and other success.

1. How long has Raising a Reader been collaborating with Epiphany Center? Raising a Reader has been working with our families since September 2010.

2. On average, about how many clients participate each year? Every enrolled family participates, so approximately 25 families per year receive a weekly RAR Red Book Bag. The children are very good at reminding the parents to bring or pick-up the Family Book Bag. Each quarter, an RAR staff person comes to Epiphany to read to the children in their respective caregiving groups, be they two months old or two years old.  

The carefully selected books for each group as well as Michele Callwood’s engaging manner inspire the children to point out and vocalize their responses to the story and questions. Twice per year, RAR staff members also conduct great workshops for the parents, and we hope to have more sessions in 2015.

3. What has been the feedback from clients? Parents express appreciation for the opportunity to have books in their homes; for some families the books in the RAR Red Book Bag are the only books in their living situation.

Parents are also grateful to have books in their native language but some express reservation about having books in languages unknown to them. Larisa McCutcheon, Epiphany RAR Coordinator, reassures parents and demonstrates for them how to make use of pictures and stories in their home language.

Parents describe the ways they have incorporated sharing the books with the children as part of their home rituals/routines, especially the bedtime. Sitting on laps, cuddling, sharing language as well as sharing interests seems to provide the family with a calming environment as the day winds down for restful sleep.

4. Studies have shown that poor literacy detracts from children’s abilities to learn in school.  Do you think the program instills an early love of books, and in turn, gives them a better chance?  Definitely.  RAR, as well as our teachers’ commitment to early literacy, literally puts books into children’s hands at a very early age.  The children use the books in a variety of ways—touching, holding, mouthing, page turning, pointing, sounds, words with increasing skills for identifying pictures, associating sounds with pictures, and, eventually answering questions about or asking questions about the book.

Currently, there is a movement to use the term “book sharing” rather than “reading books” due to the wide variety of ways that children interact with the literature. Children interact with their books through dance and song, ideas or concepts that may expand their frame of knowledge, and the storytelling that happens in a family relationship. We encourage families to remember that literacy comes in many forms and the way their family shares it is valued by the program.

5. What do you most like about Raising a Reader? Raising a Reader helps us connect home and school through the red book bags. Families are eager to receive their books and they even help remind us to send home their new books! Michele is extremely engaging when she visits the children to read and continues to establish community between Epiphany Center and RAR, an organization dedicated to the education of our young children.

A state licensed, Early Head Start Program providing early intervention, Epiphany’s Parent-Child Center offers parenting support in group and individual sessions for the city’s at-risk families.

Your gift today can help us continue offering at-risk children the help they need to thrive. Donate online here.

Learn more about Raising A Reader San Francisco, Alameda and Contra Costa Counties