For over 30 years, a local not for profit group has been working to promote literacy in Cass, Morgan and Scott Counties.
The Literacy Committee of the Alpha Phi Chapter of Delta Kappa Gamma have worked to promote the Raise a Reader program in an effort to get area children off to a good start in in school.
Debbie Bicknell with the Alpha Phi, says the Raise a Reader Program is is promoted by active and retired teachers who know the value of reading and want to provide books and literacy information to as many families as possible.
“The whole purpose for it is that we know as teachers just how important literacy is, and studies have shown that the more books in the home that a child has access to, the better they do later on in school and test scores, and we just want to help children get started from the beginning.”
Bicknell says that the program has teamed up with Passavant Area Hospital for a number of years to help promote literacy right from the start.
“We have four parts of our project, first of all, and this has been going on the longest I believe, we have newborn baby packets that are given to the parents of each baby born at Passavant Hospital, and that includes a first book for the baby and a calendar for the parents where they can just check off things that their baby has done at that moment.”
The packet also includes information such as an immunization schedule, and Dr. Margaret Wilson provides an insert about limiting screen time for the whole family.
Bicknell says that the Raise a Reader program starts, even before the birth of a child.
“Local O.B. offices and prenatal clinics receive information about reading to the child even before birth. Hearing is one of the first capabilities an unborn baby has, and just being able to hear the rhythm of the parents voice as they read to them, and that is also a good habit to get into, even before baby is born.”
The program is not limited to Jacksonville and Passavant Area Hospital, Bicknell says that the program works in connection with the heath departments in Cass, Scott and Morgan counties to promote literacy.
“Four health department sites in three counties receive our information, a free book for each child that comes there plus reading and math suggestions for parents on how to integrate those into everyday life. And all of our information given to those sites are in three languages because of the changing demographics of our society. So we have English, Spanish and French.”
The Raise a Reader program also provides books for children at area events such as the Diaperbags to Backpacks event. Bicknell says the program is funded through a stipend from the Illinois State Foundation for Educational Studies, along with donations from local businesses, individuals and groups such as an annual donation from the Fox Trust through Grace and Centenary Methodist churches.
Bicknell says that there is still always a need for support for the program both in donations of funds and of volunteers.
Donations can be sent to the Alpha Phi Literacy Project, 202 Westwinds Drive, in Jacksonville. To find out how to volunteer for the project, or for more information, contact Debbie Bicknell at 217-754-3430, ////// or at firstname.lastname@example.org.