The Library Foundation for Sarasota County Board of Directors has created a Children’s Early Literacy Endowment to fund in perpetuity programs that enhance opportunities for young children (0-5) and their families to read together. We reached our goal of $500,000 on December 31, 2016.
Gifts, large and small, came from 198 donors including individuals, foundations, businesses, the 2016 Giving Challenge and a year-end community mailing. Partnerships with the Observer and Sun newspapers promoted the endowment campaign to the community.
Library Foundation Support for Early Literacy
In 2012, the Library Foundation assumed funding responsibility for the Sarasota County Library’s Imagination Library program, which provides a new book mailed each month to eligible children for the first five years of their lives, along with instructions for parents on how to read to young children and use the public library.
At its height, more than 2.400 children were enrolled in the Sarasota Imagination Library program. Currently, 700 children are enrolled with a goal to add 300 more before the end of 2017. We work in partnership with Children First, the Healthy Start Coalition and other agencies to identify and enroll children in need of extra help on the path to reading.
The Need to Read to Very Young Children
Children develop much of their capacity for learning in the first three years of life, when their brains grow to 90 percent of their eventual adult size (Karoly et al., 1998).
As parents talk, sing, and read to children, the children’s brain cells are literally turned on (Shore, 1997). The opportunity to create the foundation for reading begins in the earliest years. Just as a child develops language skills long before being able to speak, the child also develops literacy skills long before being able to read (National Research Council, 1998).
The Campaign for Grade Level Reading has conducted research that shows that, by age three, low-income children have heard 30 million fewer words than higher-income children. The effects are cumulative with nearly 74% of students who fail to read proficiently by the end of grade 3 achieving lower grades and often dropping out before high school graduation.
Funding the Children’s Early Literacy Endowment
The Library Foundation set a goal of $500,000 to create the Children’s Early Literacy Endowment in December 2015. Now fully funded, with a spending rate of 4.5%, the endowment will generate at least $22,500 annually for early literacy endeavors, for now and forever. The Endowment will fund the Imagination Library but will have the flexibility to fund newer early literacy programs in the future. The need for literacy opportunities will always exist.
Patricia and Robert Gussin, generous members of the Library Foundation Board, made the first gift of $100,000. The Endowment will be managed by the Community Foundation for Sarasota County. We will add to the endowment and serve more children by seeking gifts from individuals and foundations.