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GHHI Baltimore Launches First Book Program

Green & Healthy Homes Initiative Baltimore recently launched a partnership with First Book to help improve academic outcomes for families receiving GHHI home interventions. A safe and healthy home is essential for children to succeed in school, and with the addition of a home library, a child’s educational outcomes can increase exponentially.

First Book is an international nonprofit that provides access to new books and educational resources for children from low-income families. Through the First Book Marketplace, schools and community programs working with kids in need can get books and educational resources for up to 90 percent off retail prices, thanks to partnerships with more than 90 leading publishers and manufacturers. First Book believes that reading is critical to a child’s success in life and school, but a child without books to read will not have the opportunity to become a skilled reader. Since 1992, First Book has distributed more than 120 million books to children in need.

In the nation’s lowest income neighborhoods, there is statistically one book for every 300 children. In middle-income neighborhoods, it becomes 13 books per child.[i] First Book and GHHI Baltimore are working together to close this gap.

How the Program Works

Last fall, GHHI Baltimore began its first delivery schedule of books from First Book. We purchased 1,860 books for children between the ages of 1 and 14 years old, selecting nine books for each age group. The books are gender neutral and range in topic from health education to classics, like the The Very Hungry Caterpillar. We also supply parents and caregivers with information on reading literacy to guide them in their efforts to help children develop strong reading skills. We asked all of our current home intervention clients with children if they would be interested in participating in the program and so far, we have only received positive responses.

As the Family Advocacy Services Manager for GHHI Baltimore, I lead this program and see that we are already making a difference in many families’ lives. I especially love dropping off the books to the clients when children are home. It is so rewarding to see the children automatically pick up one of the books and start reading.

To date, we have delivered more than 300 books to low-income families in Baltimore City. Our goal is to reach an average of three families per week, reaching more than 75 families in the next six months! We are constantly evaluating the program’s progress and hope to extend the program to other GHHI locations across the country.

Measuring Progress After Three and Six Months

Before delivering the books, the parent or caregiver fills out a survey outlining their child’s current interest in the following areas: reading at home, how many books their child currently has in the home, how often the parent reads with their child, the parent’s opinions on how important reading is to their child’s education and the child’s current level of reading in school. We plan to follow up with the parents and caregivers at three month and six months with the same survey. Changes in the interest levels of reading for both the child and the parent and whether there have been grade-level reading improvements at school are all signs of success.

Through this partnership, GHHI and First Book are turning the page on a story of unhealthy homes and academic struggles to one of healthy homes and successful futures for Baltimore-area school children.

If you are a school or program serving children in need and would like to sign up with First Book, click here.

[i] Neuman, Susan B. and David K. Dickinson, ed. Handbook of Early Literacy Research, Volume 2. New York, NY: 2006

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