boy reading book

When giving gifts to children in our own families or when donating to children in need, we tend to think that toys are the best thing for them. As long as a child is playing, they are happy and occupied. Toys may be a great gift option, but age-appropriate books and resources for parents have a much larger impact. In fact, introducing books at an early age before school begins is considered the most important factor in influencing a child’s early developmental success.

Unfortunately, in many American homes, books are not a priority. In fact, 61% of low-income families have no books at all in their homes for their children. Ferst Readers addresses this issue by providing quality books and literacy resources for children and their families to use at home during the earliest stages of development. Every month, the organization mails age-appropriate books to over 50,000 children from birth to five years old, along with a newsletter that corresponds to the book’s topic. Recipes and activities are also included, giving the family more things to do together. As a result of the program, Ferst Readers found that kindergarten readiness assessment scores rose significantly, school-wide standardized reading scores increased each year, and there was an increased awareness of the importance of developing early literacy skills.

Ferst Readers began in Morgan County, Georgia, in 1999 and has since expanded to 100+ programs in communities in Georgia, Florida, Mississippi, Alabama, South Carolina, Montana and Texas. Each community has locals who join as a team and work with partners to get books to the families who need them most.  With planned expansion in the coming year including Volusia County, Florida, the organization is going strong and looking for locals to create new teams. Even during the COVID-19 pandemic, the organization has found ways to continue operating with many initiatives such as holding group meetings and fundraising events online. Ferst Readers looks forward to continued success for the upcoming year with creative ways to get others involved and continue to expand.

As seniors, we know more than anyone how important literacy is to our community. The ability to read at a young age puts children at an advantage later in life; it nourishes the mind and encourages growth. If you love to read and want to help others have access to books, there are a variety of ways you can get involved. Visit the Ferst Readers website to see what areas in your community have programs that need help. If you join a team, you will be fundraising, raising awareness and working to grow the program in your community. If you would like to donate, just $36 sponsors a child with a year of age-appropriate books. You can donate by mailing a check to Ferst Readers, PO Box 1327, Madison, GA 30650 and writing in the memo what community the funds should go to, or just go online.  Lastly, you can help out via social media. “Like” the Ferst Readers Facebook page, share the program in your feed and share their social media posts to help spread the word and expand the program into new communities.

For more information, visit https://www.ourseniors.net/nonprofit/ga/madison/non-profit/ferst-readers-of-volusia-county/