Originally Published: The Philadelphia Tribune by Jenny Bogoni | January 23, 2017
There are reading heroes tucked away in every nook and cranny of our city. They’re the parents, grandparents, older siblings, faith leaders and business owners who are passionate about childhood literacy and giving our city’s children a chance to succeed through the power of a good story.
Learning doesn’t just happen in the classroom. It happens around the kitchen table, on car rides and while stopping into our neighborhood grocery stores, nail salons, laundromats and barber shops. Thanks to a recent outpouring of volunteer support, it’s easier than ever for community-minded businesses to support childhood literacy right in their stores and waiting areas.
During the week of Martin Luther King Day of Service in Philadelphia, hundreds of volunteers, including Mayor Jim Kenney, took a “day on” at Girard College to put together 150 “book nooks.” These book nooks, stocked with 80 brand-new captivating books provided by Scholastic, are being delivered over the coming week to community-minded businesses and community-based organizations throughout Philadelphia.
Each book nook includes a colorful rug and matching comfortable reading chair provided by (the home furnishing store) IKEA, transforming the waiting areas of barber shops, laundromats and medical offices into sanctuaries where families can spend time reading together.
The book nook project, organized by Read by 4th in partnership with Global Citizen and the City of Philadelphia, was the signature project at this year’s 22nd Annual Greater Philadelphia Martin Luther King Day of Service held at Girard College. We’re grateful to the volunteers who used their time away from work to create these new learning landscapes for hundreds of Philadelphia communities.
But our work is far from done. Nearly two-thirds of Philadelphia students cannot read at grade level by fourth grade. Research shows this is a crucial turning point in students’ lives – children who fall behind by fourth grade are more likely to drop out of school and have additional difficulties later in life.
We’re calling on the entire city to join our effort. Visit local businesses with book nooks (a full list is available at http://readby4th.org) and thank owners for ensuring that reading can happen everywhere.
A child’s love of reading begins with you. Be a reading hero. Spend time reading with your child, not just when you’re near a book nook, but every day at home or at your neighborhood library. Remember that we all can turn every day moments into teachable moments. For ideas of how, visit www.readby4th.org.
As we look to maximize the impact and maintain the momentum we gained during the Martin Luther King Day of Service, I’m reminded of a fitting sentiment among Dr. King’s abundance of wisdom: “Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, ‘what are you doing for others?’ ” In Philadelphia we must keep asking, what are we doing to help our children learn to read?
Jenny Bogoni is executive director of Read by 4th, a citywide effort of more than 80 organizations with ties to the Free Library of Philadelphia.