When a family enrolls a preschooler in a Child Center of NY Head Start program, parents must complete a home inventory that includes the statement, “You see 10 books in the home environment”—and parents answer either “yes” or “no.” More often than not, the answer is “no.”
“Most of the families in our program don’t own books,” explains Marie Mason, Education Director of The Child Center’s Ficalora Family Foundation Head Start Center in Woodside. “Poverty is an issue for the majority of them, and many parents may not be able to read English—or even their native language—and so are unable to read to their children.”
As common sense tells us and research confirms, early exposure to books is key to instilling a lifelong love of reading, and it helps provide a strong foundation for success in school. That’s why our Head Start programs keep classrooms stocked with reading materials. “Our center often provides kids with their first exposure to a collection of books,” says Mason. Teachers read often to the students, who love to listen—but they get really excited when someone new reads to them.
That’s what happened last week when five employees of City National Bank and its wholly owned subsidiary City National Rochdale (CNB/CNR) traveled to the Ficalora Family Foundation Head Start Center to read to the children in five classrooms.
Caps for Sale, Five Little Ducks, and Chicka Chicka Boom Boom were among the books they read. The children listened intently, asked lots of questions, and interacted with the readers in ways that included joining in the “Chicka Chicka Boom Boom” chorus with the reader.
One of the volunteers got high-tech and showed the children that it’s possible to read books on an iPad. Much to the students’ glee, he began to read from it The Book with No Pictures, a children’s book written by comedian and actor B. J. Novak and comprised of funny-sounding, nonsensical words and absurd statements, such as, “And my head is made of blueberry pizza.”
“He showed them the words and made silly noises—the children were laughing like crazy!” Mason reports. “All the readers engaged with the children. It’s wonderful when people can bring the joy of reading to them, and show them the pleasure of having books. The children really enjoyed it.”
And it was a two-way street, as the readers found themselves amazed by the feedback from the children and enjoying the opportunity to support literacy in such a hands-on way.
“The children’s laughter and smiles capped a wonderful event and made us realize we were the ones benefitting most from this experience,” says volunteer reader Amit Chokshi, Portfolio Manager at City National Rochdale. “We want to thank The Child Center of NY for hosting us. Marie and her staff were extremely gracious and generous with their time, providing an excellent overview of the center and its mandate, as well as showcasing their talent in teaching and nurturing the center’s students.”
The visit was such a success, that the folks at CNB/CNR have decided to make it a quarterly event.
These visits are part of City National Bank’s Reading is The way up initiative, which supports literacy on a variety of fronts in the communities the company serves.
We encourage other companies and individuals to help foster a love of reading in the children at our Head Start programs by reading to them, or by donating new or gently used books and educational toys, such as puzzles and memory games. Books written in Spanish or Bengali are especially needed, since they make it possible for parents literate only in those languages to read to their children.
Anyone interested in arranging volunteer visits or donations of books or toys can contact Marie Mason at 718-943-2800.