Raising A Reader Book Bags Bring Home the Joy of Reading

Families of children in the Raising A Reader program with the Child Care Action Council came together at the Lacey Timberland Library to celebrate the end of a successful year of reading together at home. It was a festive event which included over 75 people from the Family Partnership Center, Lacey Child Care and Family Services Center, and Hawks Prairie Center.

The Raising A Reader program is an early literacy program that partners with child care centers and preschools in the community to provide weekly book-filled bags for children age birth to five, to take home and read with their families. The books are rotated weekly between children, so each child is exposed to over 100 different books throughout their school year. “As a parent it makes it much easier,” says Leilani, a parent of a Raising A Reader child. “To be able to bring books home from school is nice.”

To celebrate their successful completion of the year-long program, families are invited to celebrate at their local library with the Raising A Reader Family Library Nights. The first of several library nights in the community brought families from three child care centers to the Lacey Timberland Library the evening of Thursday, March 14. Children were happy to see their teachers at the event, who generously donated their time and hard work and made the first Family Library Night a success.

Families enjoyed pizza together, then children created their own wordless books, both provided by the Child Care Action Council’s Raising A Reader Coordinator, Jessica MacLeod. As children worked on their literacy projects, the Youth Services Librarian Kristi Selby lead parents and families on a tour of the library, providing them with information on library services including story times, activities, and technology. The night was ended with a captivating read aloud of two classics, “Hi, Pizza Man!” and “Pete’s a Pizza.”

The family library nights are intended to bring families together not only to celebrate the completion of the Raising A Reader program, but also to continue the practice of reading as a family by connecting  them to their local library.

Each child at the event is given a Raising A Reader blue book bag—“my library book bag,”—which is filled with a free book. The blue bags encourage families to visit their library and check out new books to continue their reading routine. On March 13, volunteers from the Junior League of Olympia helped prepare over 900 blue book bags to go out to children in the program, a service the Junior League has contributed for the past several years.

The Raising A Reader program is part of a national, evidence-based program which has shown that early reading habits help build long term literacy skills and further children’s later academic success. The program also inspires “book cuddling” with children and their families, a practice which can increase parent-child bonding while also helping build language and cognitive skills.

Raising A Reader serves over 1200 children and their families in three different counties. In Thurston County, the program reaches nearly 800 children and families in 36 different child care centers and Head Start preschool programs. 

“She loves it. Every time she brings a bag home she already has a book picked out for bed time,” says Annita Fejeran of her daughter’s enthusiasm for the book bags. “If we don’t finish them, we will also read the books while waiting for the school bus.”

Raising A Reader provides children with hundreds of quality, bilingual, and culturally relevant books. Baby and toddler classrooms receive board books and preschool children get storybooks which are often customized to children’s unique family culture and school curriculum.  In order to maintain the program, Raising A Reader seeks financial support to purchase appropriate books, book bags, and staffing, which includes parent-teacher education on early literacy techniques, program coordination of over 40 sites, and program evaluation. Donations of $100 can sponsor one child throughout the year. Volunteer contributions are also appreciated for those interested in helping at the events.

More information can be found by visiting the Child Care Action Council website, www.ccacwa.org.