Tis the season for reading – at the beach, by the pool, in the backyard. It’s also the time of year when kids’ reading skills atrophy. Schools are closed and for many kids there are lots of fun things they’d rather be doing than reading.

That’s why this is an especially good time to celebrate the work of Ready Readers, a St. Louis nonprofit that encourages and inspires preschool children from low-income communities to become readers. Its goal is simple: to encourage these kids to see how much they can enjoy and prosper from honing this valuable life skill.

Working with very young kids is a way to prevent the reading problems many poor children develop. Trained volunteers read books aloud to the same classroom of children for 30 minutes each week, and then provide stimulating related activities. Six times during the school year and once during the summer, the volunteers also distribute new books for each child to take home and keep.

A questionnaire distributed to teachers involved in Ready Readers revealed that 90 percent believed the program greatly contributes to their students’ enjoyment of books.  Ninety-eight percent believe it enhances kids’ literacy skills — like print awareness and letter knowledge — which are essential for independent reading…something many of these kids will want to be doing at this same time next year!

Giving opportunities: