Monday, December 6, 2010

Rolling Readers raises money to battle illiteracy and give children a passion for books

By Meiko Patton
SDUN Reporter

Rolling Readers hosted its 2nd Annual Artists & Authors fundraising event last month at The New Children’s Museum downtown.

The charity event brings together gifted artists, such as Janell Cannon, and renowned children’s book authors, such as Gerald McDermott, to celebrate their work and raise money for Rolling Readers’ Read-Aloud and Book Giveaway programs.

Located in the heart of North Park, Rolling Readers’ mission is to inspire disadvantaged children to love reading through read-aloud volunteers and new book ownership.

“By age four, children who live in poor families will have heard 32 million fewer words than children living in professional families,” said Allison Bechill, Rolling Readers’ executive director. “Since 1991, Rolling Readers has striven to inspire children with less opportunity to love reading, and events like ‘Artists & Authors’ help us support local children and schools in need.”

Rolling Readers’ goal is to prevent the consequences of illiteracy among children. By instilling excitement about books and a love of reading, the organization creates a foundation for early literacy.

Studies have shown that children who love reading are more likely to become lifelong learners. In addition, reading stories to children provides the best opportunities for true “teaching moments” because it builds listening skills, increases the child’s attention span and develops the child’s ability to concentrate and focus.

How did Rolling Readers get its name?

The late Robert Condon, a literacy advocate and businessman, founded Rolling Readers USA in 1991. When reading aloud to his young children, Condon became aware of the significant improvement in their vocabulary and their increased interest in books. Eager to see if his discovery would hold true for other children, Condon began reading to kids at a local homeless shelter.

Within a short time, the reading sessions proved to have the same positive effects on the children’s interest in books as well as a marked increase on their early literacy development.

Condon recruited a handful of volunteers who began “rolling” into low-income schools and community sites to read to children each week.

The Read-Aloud program motivates children to develop a passion for reading and literature. Hundreds of volunteers devote about 30 minutes in a classroom each week, reading to the same classroom of children during the school year.

This year, more than 300 Read-Aloud volunteers in San Diego visited about 450 high-need elementary school classrooms, reaching more than 9,000 children each week.

In conjunction with the Read-Aloud program, more than 18,000 books are distributed, ensuring that reading goes beyond the classroom.

Rolling Readers is not only rewarding for the growing readers, but also those bringing in the books.
“I believe there is a human need to hear stories,” said author Shelley Moore Thomas. “Storytelling is one of the coolest things a person can do and it feeds the hunger of our young ones.”

To find out more about Rolling Readers, click here.

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Authors (l-r) Meiko Patton, Gerald McDermott and Shelley Moore Thomas were on hand for Artists & Authors, a fundraiser for Rolling Readers at The New Children’s Museum. (Courtesy Meiko Patton)

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