Moving America Forward

Meet the Group That Helps Kids Turn the Page Toward a Better Future

August 7, 2014
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Meet the Group That Helps Kids Turn the Page Toward a Better Future
Allen County Public Library via Flickr Creative Commons
The Children’s Literacy Foundation brings books and hope to low-income communities in Vermont and New Hampshire

By reading his words, Dr. Seuss taught us about all of the places we will go. Opening a book and falling into the pages transports you to a new land with new adventures — whether it is eating green eggs and ham or meeting the Cat in the Hat.

But for some kids, reading is much more than just a trip down imagination lane; it is the pathway to a more successful life. And that’s the mission of the Children’s Literacy Foundation (CLiF): to show kids in low-income communities the opportunities that reading can provide them.

Since 1998, CLiF has been serving low-income, at-risk and rural children in Vermont and New Hampshire.  Through partnerships with schools, libraries, shelters and other organizations, the group works to inspire the love of writing and reading in children ranging from birth to age 12.

So how do they encourage passion for the written word? The Foundation hosts events throughout various communities featuring a published author who gives an inspirational presentation on his or her life, tell stories and conduct a writing workshop with the kids.

Further, CLiF donates books to schools, libraries and kids themselves, as well as works with the community to create a more literary-friendly environment.

It all began 16 years ago when Duncan McDougall founded the organization with one staff member (himself) and one program.  Now, CLiF boasts a staff of five as well as 50 professional presenters.

Over the years, they’ve given away $3 million worth of books, and worked with more than 160,000 kids across 400 communities.

They’ve also added a new program that allows CLiF to interact with kids throughout the entire year. Children have the opportunity to participate in at least 12 activities and get their own personal collection of new books.

And just because school is out during the summer, that doesn’t mean that the CLiF stops working. CLiF also coordinates its Summer Readers Program, reaching 3,700 kids in over 50 summer camps, childcare centers, libraries and recreation programs in low-income areas.

Why the focus on children from low-income areas? Because, perhaps not surprisingly, they’re the ones most at risk for low literacy rates. CLiF chooses communities that contain a high number of kids on the free or reduced lunch program or have a high number of below proficient scores in reading and writing on standardized tests.

The kids that live in these areas are often the children of inmates, recent refugees, or simply don’t have access to enrichment activities because they live in rural areas.

For kids of prison inmates, this program gives both parent and child a chance for a better life. CLiF offers a program where inmates (70 percent of them have poor literacy) can record themselves reading a book and then send that recording to their children.

For one inmate in New Hampshire, CLiF seminars changed the way he viewed reading.

“I am not able to be there and actually read them books,” he told CLiF. “Since I started attending [the CLiF seminars] we have started storytelling at night on the phone. Either I will tell one or they may but there is always a story.”

While some may consider this to be mission impossible, CLiF isn’t going giving up. After all, for some kids, counting one fish, two fish, red fish, blue fish is the key to success.

DON’T MISS: Ask the Experts: How Can We Fix Early Childhood Education?

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