I spent the morning listening to a talking goat. Specifically, a talking guy goat named Hilda. Hilda is the “spokesgoat” for the Read Aloud program. This goat provided me with some very insightful statistics on literacy in our country and what we can do to help.
The Read Aloud program “works to ignite a passion for reading aloud in families nationwide”. This nonprofit organization, founded in 2008, has partnered with other organizations to work together to promote reading between parents and children. Let me share with you some of the stats that Hilda presented to me in his online slideshow presentation:
• Only about 1/3 of low-income families read aloud on a regular basis
• 0-3 years of age are critical years for early brain development
• By age 4, low-income children have heard an average 32 million fewer words than their wealthier peers
• By Kindergarten, some low-income children have been read aloud to as few as 25 hours, while their middle-income peers have been read aloud to as many as 1000 hours.
• Some children do not have access to any in home books.
Read Aloud believes that parents and children that read together are building a strong family relationship along with developing better literacy skills. This organization is working to get books into the hands of all children that have zero or limited access to age-appropriate reading materials. By partnering with other organizations, reaching out to communities, volunteers, and promoting through marketing they hope to spread this message nationwide.
Hilda, the lovable, talking goat, shares the Read Aloud message on the organization’s website and travels the country to advocate for his favorite pastime: reading to loved ones. He is based on the real pet goat of the Cole family. This family of eleven lived in the coal-mining town of Benham, Kentucky in the 1920’s. Hilda first appeared as a character in the book a “Cole Family Christmas” by Jennifer Liu Bryan and her grandmother, Hazel Cole Kendle. From his humble beginnings in a coal town, now Hilda is appearing all over the country and on the Internet to teach others the importance of reading aloud together as a family.
Personally, I cannot a recall a day in my life that didn’t involve reading. Both of my parents are avid readers and they read to me from day one. I grew up with a passion for books and hope that through reading to my children every day that they are developing that same passion. We hit the Honeybee Bookstore in Madeira on a pretty frequent basis to discover what new books have just arrived in the store.
Hilda has opened my eyes to the fact that this trip to my favorite local bookstore is not an option for every child. While promoting reading aloud at least 15 minutes a day to a child is the primary message Read Aloud is trying to spread, they also work to get books in to the hands of low-income children. One way they are accomplishing this goal is through The Big Box of Books program. The Big Box of Books program provides books to families in need but also provides the tools needed to make the most out of reading aloud. A few times a year, families and community volunteers come together for a 90 minute program of “learning and sharing sessions”. These interactive sessions provide tips for reading aloud to loved ones. Teachers and librarians demonstrate the best way to read aloud to children (look for some key tips on the ReadAloud.org website). Each box of books covers a specific area of learning. For example, a box may be about colors and numbers while another box may cover tales of space exploration. With programs in Northern Michigan, Pittsburgh, Washington, D.C. and our own Cincinnati, The Big Box of Books effort has reached hundreds of families and children.
Visit the Read Aloud website and learn more about the important work going on at Read Aloud and how you can help. The website also provides some fantastic tips on how to read to your children along with a recommended reading list and a downloadable reading calendar. The organization also can be found on Facebook where program updates are provided on a regular basis.
And remember what Hilda the Goat always says: “It’s never work. It’s always a game.” (Mem Fox-Children’s author).