Editor’s Note: Tess Dilan is an intern at The Patterson Foundation who is working closely with the Suncoast Campaign for Grade-Level Reading initiative.
Recently, The Patterson Foundation and local Manatee government employees worked together at Manatee Technical College for the Reach Out and Read aspect of the Suncoast Campaign for Grade Level Reading in an inspiring and unique community effort to encourage grade level reading.
When I first walked into the classroom at Manatee Technical College, I was greeted by laughter ringing throughout the room. Volunteers and consultants working with The Patterson Foundation were cracking jokes and sharing snacks, all while fervently unpacking boxes of books to be labeled by age level. Volunteers were packing bookmarks and stickers into the books that were to be sent to health centers in the area. In this program, the doctors at the health centers will prescribe reading to children ages 1–5 when the kids come in for wellness checkups.
As we were working, each of us marveled at the adorable subjects of the children’s books. “Princess Alphabet” and “How Do Dinosaurs Eat Cookies” were among some of our favorites. Then, we stumbled upon a book that a volunteer had recalled reading to her child: “How Do I Love You?” The volunteer flipped through the book with nostalgia as she shared her cherished memories of reading together with her daughter. It was a moment where everyone in the room could appreciate how reading encourages family bonding and inspires lifelong learners.
Throughout the day, we all reflected on how much reading had influenced our lives. We shared stories about our favorite childhood novels and talked about how diving into books as children allowed each of us to go on adventures without even leaving our seats. Reach Out and Read was truly the perfect way to spread the joys of reading within our community.