Wednesday, May 2, 2007

Georgia Foundation Provides Free Books for Childhood Literacy

Georgia Public Broadcasting's Family Literacy program recognizes and supports literacy initiatives in Georgia that provide reading and language development programs for children and adults, and we want to spread the word about a wonderful childhood literacy organization in Georgia called the Ferst Foundation for Childhood Literacy.

The foundation strives to improve early childhood learning for every child regardless of income, race, religion or gender with the philosophy that any child who cannot read is at-risk. After six successful years, the Ferst Foundation has been helping Georgia's youth become better prepared for school by providing one free book a month to children registered with the foundation until they reach the age of five.

This literacy foundation was created after founder, Robin Ferst, read an article about Dolly Parton's Imagination Library, and it continues to move forward with a mission to offer the Imagination Library to all of Georgia's children by 2010. If a child is registered at birth, he/she has the opportunity to receive a total of 60 free books.

Each book provided by the Ferst Foundation is picked by a panel of experts from Dolly Parton's Imagination Library and is accompanied by a monthly communication piece that includes a book guide, a child activity page, and opportunities for local community literacy announcements and sponsor acknowledgements.

"Children who learn to appreciate books at an early age will grow up and become better readers, great learners, and become the successful students that we need for Georgia's future," said the Ferst Foundation's Executive Director, Shauna von Hanstein.

Statistics have shown that many Georgia children do not have books in their home, and this has shown to negatively effect a child's success in school. The Ferst Foundation attacks this problem at the core by providing an array of age-appropriate books to families in participating counties in Georgia. Morgan County Schools Superintendent, Stanley DeJarnett, says since their collaboration with the Ferst Foundation they have seen a significant rise on the kindergarten readiness test, and he believes the most influential factor in this rise were the books arriving in the mail from the Ferst Foundation.

The Ferst Foundation believes providing age-appropriate books to as many Georgia homes as possible will not only contribute to a child's growing mind and success in school, but will also contribute to Georgia's society as a whole.

"A home without age-appropriate books is more than an unfortunate by-product of poverty, it has broad ramifications for Georgia," said the Ferst Foundation's founder, Robin Ferst.

With expectations to expand its presence around the state to include the Georgia counties with the lowest literacy rates, the Foundation currently operates in more than 40 counties and urban communities in Atlanta and has been mailing more than 500,000 books to over 37,000 Georgia children throughout its six years of operation.