By Allison Westlake
Imagine every single classroom in Birmingham City Schools reading at the exact same time on the exact same day. On April 20, more than 700 community volunteers made that a reality through Birmingham Reads Day.
In its eighth year, Birmingham Reads Day is the largest children’s literacy event in the community and is a partnership between Better Basics and the Junior League of Birmingham.
For months, the partners worked with community organizations, businesses and individuals to recruit volunteers to participate in the one-day event.
At 1 p.m. on the 20th, volunteers visited every preschool through fifth-grade class in the Birmingham city system. Better Basics staff selected age-appropriate books for each grade level. Volunteers read the book to the classroom, asked engagement questions for reading comprehension and gave each student a copy of the book to take home.
“Birmingham Reads Day is a great opportunity for our community to connect with the students of Birmingham City Schools,” said Jake Paul, director of development and public relations with Better Basics.
Susan Shields, a Better Basics volunteer and Junior League of Birmingham member, has served as a school captain with Birmingham Reads Day for five years, helping connect volunteers with the classrooms.
“What I love about Birmingham Reads Day is to see the excitement from the students about reading. It is so easy to take for granted access to books, especially books that children can read and comprehend at varying levels,” Shields said.
Paul explained how literacy success can be increased by access to age-appropriate reading materials.
“According to ‘The Handbook of Early Literacy Research,’ literacy challenges can be intensified in low-income areas where one age-appropriate book exists for every 300 children,” Paul said. “However, when struggling readers are provided with the right tools, they can overcome these challenges and improve their reading skills, thus reducing the likelihood that they will fall behind or drop out of school. By providing each elementary-aged child in Birmingham City Schools a book to take home, Birmingham Reads will help ensure the children in our community are not a part of this statistic.”
As a part of the Birmingham Reads project, companies, organizations and individuals are participating in the Birmingham Reads Book Drive Challenge, with a goal of getting 20,000 books donated this year.
Books collected in the drive will be distributed to at-risk students through Better Basics’ programs. Community members are encouraged to participate in the book drive by dropping off donations at the Better Basics office in downtown Birmingham
This year’s project was also sponsored by Ash Renovations, WVTM 13, Scholastic, United Way Success by 6 and America’s First Credit Union. For more information about Birmingham Reads and Better Basics, visit www.betterbasics.org.