The Philanthropy Collaborative

Regional Case Studies

Family Reading Partnership
Ithaca, NY

Family Reading PartnershipIt may seem strange that all the children of Ithaca are familiar with the phrase "…and he was still hungry!" This is because, in Ithaca, the Books at Birth program gives all newborn babies their very own copy of "The Very Hungry Caterpillar" by Eric Carle. Children in this community have grown up with this book for a decade, and families of all backgrounds have had the common experience of this one book. In turn, parents in Ithaca know that reading to children is an integral part of their development and should truly begin at birth.

Family Reading PartnershipThe Family Reading Partnership is a non-profit, community-wide organization that promotes early literacy. They are a broad-based, local coalition of individuals, businesses, schools, libraries and other organizations. They have joined forces to create a culture of literacy in Ithaca by promoting family reading practices throughout the community. Together with a variety of community partners the Family Reading Partnership supports several programs in addition to Books at Birth, including the Books to Grow On program.

Family Reading PartnershipBooks to Grow On provides medical practices with children's books to give to their young patients and their families. Parents comment that the books are perfect for the age of their child at the time of the appointment. The program is so successful that children now associate visits to the doctor with the gift of a new book. Recently, a four-year-old in the community was overheard playing in the doctor's corner of her nursery school. She examined her pretend patient and proclaimed her well. Then, as the patient was leaving, the young doctor said, "Wait, wait! Don't forget your book!"

We know that literacy -- the ability to read, write and communicate clearly -- will define a child's future success in school and in life. We also know that literacy development, the process that brings children to reading, begins in the first years of life. Early experiences with books can build a strong foundation for learning long before a child enters school, and indeed they are the foundation for life-long learning Through these successful programs, young children in Ithaca are growing up with the expectation that books are part of everyday life, and parents know that literacy development is just as important as going to the doctor.

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