On Sept. 20, David and Michaelin Watts welcomed Bring Me a Book (BMAB) Franklin Volunteers into their home to discuss the organizations accomplishments over the last year.
David Watts opened the meeting by saying, “Bring Me a Book Franklin has put roots down in the soil in Franklin County, now we need to see how the tree will grow.”
He restated the organization’s goal of providing young children and their parents with access to quality books. This summer the Watts attended the three-day “One Goal Conference for Early Learning” in Tampa and were invited to present on the Bring Me a Book outreach.
The Watts said during the event, they saw no other group focused on simply having fun with books. Michaelin Watts said BMAB stresses the value of reading aloud to youngsters.
“Even parents who can’t read can talk about pictures,” she said.
Local pediatricians have joined in the outreach by distributing books to patients under age 5 after each office visit. The doctor’s office staff keeps track of what books the child has already received to avoid duplications. Michaelin Watts said pediatricians Drs. Elizabeth Currie and Robert Head have both joined the program.
The Watts said there are now 27 partnerships with other support programs in place.
A new feature of BMAB in the upcoming year will be the distribution of both English and Spanish editions of “The Best We Can Be,” a text for parents outlining early learning activities they can share with their children.
Also new is the “I Can Do It” program to familiarize second grade students with the possibility and reality of attending college.
Michaelin Watts said the Early Learning Coalition of Northwest Florida is focusing attention on Franklin County because of ongoing economic constraints on local families.
Members of the BMAB group expressed concern that the school district’s Pre-K programs now charge $40 per week. The fee is in place at both the ABC School and the main campus, and covers the cost beyond the state-mandated three hours per day.
She said the coalition will help with tuition for children whose parents can show they are working at least 20 hours a week. Parents interested in the program can call (866) 269-3022.
The Watts stressed the importance of reading education prior to the age of 10. “Up to the third grade, they’re learning to read,” David Watts said,. “After the third grade, they’re reading to learn.”
Carol Barfield, a program specialist with the county library’s TIGERS after-school program, talked about how her students, ages 12 to 19, have partnered with younger book buddies to mentor them.
The TIGERS students picked the age group they wished to work with. Each of the older children was asked to bring a sibling or a neighbor to experience an atmosphere where they could read with a mentor in an intimate environment. The teachers were given t-shirts and business cards for cooperation in the program.
Retired librarian Carrie Kienzle said the TIGERS program has made an impact on both mentors and book buddies. When she and educator Marie Marshall visited the after school group, “the children really paid attention to what Marie and I had to say and were totally engaged,” she said.
BMAB is also being incorporated into the health department’s “Healthy Families” initiative.
BMAB is looking for more volunteers, and hopes to train more trainers in the upcoming year. BMAB is also seeking pre-teen, teen and parent read aloud readers. The I Can Do It program is seeking organizers and people to do outreach. Finally, BMAB needs folks who can volunteer an hour or two, once a month or once a week, to check on bookcases around the community and help with organizing inventory.
If you would like to help, call 370-0126 or email firstname.lastname@example.org