BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KERO) — Reading is more than a pastime, stories can shape, and even change, the lives of people who read them, especially children.
In honor of Read Across America Day, an initiative is making sure Kern County kids have books at home and ones that make them feel seen.
British Writer C.S. Lewis once said, “we read to know we are not alone.”
Books do that. The characters within them bring us company, and when that company looks more like the world we live in, and the children that read them, kids feel less alone, and they feel seen and heard.
“You guys can help others find their voices too.”
Helping children find their voices, one story at a time, but in Kern County, CAPK’S Teresa Barrientos Galban said they’ll sometimes find not everyone has a book to read.
“These children come from lower-income families and don’t have any books at home to read. With the pandemic these past two years, a lot of the children have been home without books.”
A study from the non-profit ‘Room to Read’ found that only 5% of homes in the central valley had 100+ books in the home, also known as the “optimal number of books for early school success”.
“Central California is identified as one of the top 5 high-need regions in our feasibility study. This is due to findings in low educational achievement, so average test scores are more than two grade levels below the national average. There was a lack of access of books," said Shannon Hesel, Associate Director of U.S. Programs Room to Read.
But Room to Read, United Way Kern County and the Community Action Partnership of Kern, are looking to change that. The trio are holding a book distribution Friday in honor of Read Across America Day, which also falls on Dr. Seuss’ birthday.
With Room to Read’s help, each child is getting a collection of books in English and Spanish. From just January to now, more than 9,000 books have been distributed in Kern County through this initiative.
“It’s great for them to have books, from authors that look like them and sound like them. To bring that to them, it inspires the kids. We have a lot of different backgrounds of kids here in Kern County,” said Gabriel Alvarez, VP of Development and Impact of United Way.
The “Peace and Equity Book Collection” showcases a diversity of perspectives from the narratives to the people writing, creating, and illustrating them.
These are stories of neurological diversity, of Black inventors and, “Stories of different ways students learned during the height of the pandemic. When learning remotely, and recognizing the different home situations that children might be in. So, it really is looking at the lens from the broadest sense of the word. Recognizing the tapestry of humans in California and across the U.S,” Hesel said.