Page Ahead Children’s Literacy Program

Page Ahead Children’s Literacy Program

Books change lives. Books uplift. Books matter. Books are the foundation on which healthy and happy children succeed in life. And helping to support this critical mission is Page Ahead, a children’s literacy program designed to “give kids in need a chance to read.” I recently had the good fortune to connect with Rebecca Brinbury, the Development Manager at Page Ahead, who shared how her organization’s goal of putting books in the hands of children is improving their chances for success in life.

“All of Page Ahead’s programs are based on the fact that easy access to books in childhood is one of the greatest predictors of future success—even with controlling for parental education or income level,” says Rebecca. “It’s also crucial to support literacy early—the longer you wait, the larger the reading skills gap grows between kids in communities of concentrated low income and their better-off peers.

Page Ahead confirms that when you give books to children, especially new books that they have chosen for themselves, they become readers. Based on their extensive research, they have launched a flagship bookfair program called Book Up Summer, serving kindergarten through second grade students in low-income schools throughout the state of Washington where the majority of the student body qualifies for free or reduced-price lunch (FRL). This low cost program supports the proof that when children choose books to read and keep them for multiple summers, this reduces the “summer slide”—the tendency for students, especially those from low-income families, to lose some of the achievement gains they made during the previous school year.

“Our preschool program, Story Leaders, which gives preschoolers books and helps their educators and families build their kids’ preliteracy skills, is delivered via Head Start and ECEAP (Early Childhood Education and Assistance Program), the federal- and state-supported preschool programs for families experiencing poverty, respectively,” she explains.

Page Ahead works directly with schoolbook vendors such as Scholastic or Follett to provide the books that the children “shop” and select at no cost. Additionally, Page Ahead also provides books throughout the year from their own library, roughly 15k books they’ve secured through doners, book drives and purchased at a discount. These books are then shipped to their Story Leaders’ sites, given to children through reading events at schools, or even distributed alongside meal pickups and homework packets during remote learning.

 When asked about how social justice is part of their story, Rebecca starts with sharing that the number one predictor of childhood illiteracy is poverty.

“Hundreds of years of systemic racism, housing segregation and redlining, employment discrimination, and other oppressive structures have compounded these effects for families of color,” she says. In Washington, minority youth are two to three times more likely to live in poverty than their white peers. Family income often dictates the availability of reading materials in a home and this contributes to the perpetuation of generational poverty and disenfranchisement.

“Even when accounting for the presence of public libraries or bookstores, children in majority low-income communities tend to have access to fewer books of lower quality,” Rebecca says. “Page Ahead is a wonderful, lifechanging program. But we exist because of ongoing, systemic failures in our society. If all families had truly equal access to educational and economic opportunities, if all communities had equal access to books and reading resources, the literacy achievement gap would not exist.” Page Ahead works on behalf of the young children in Washington who are facing some of the greatest barriers to educational success. “Books are not the only solution to the staggering inequities we face, but they are one proven method to help close the gap.”

She implores readers to consider the larger picture of focusing on students who are not being served equally in communities and discovering how to support their growth and literacy through traditional and creative means.

“Supporting schools in your community that have fewer resources than others, voting for public officials who understand the intractable nature of the multiple oppressions so many families face,” she encourages. “Also buying kids’ books about diverse characters by diverse authors and illustrators and demonstrate to publishers and booksellers that they need to continue widening that pipeline.”

Both financial and book contributions are always welcome and critical to helping Page Ahead’s operations. She encourages Books Uplift readers to reach out to their Program Manager, their main point of contact with their partner schools and programs.

Rebecca is setting an example of leaning into a cause you believe in. With a background in the arts, publishing, fundraising, co-founding a nonprofit Seattle City of Literature and as a mother of young children, she was drawn to Page Ahead’s mission of literacy and decided to take the plunge. After a year and a half working as their Development Manager, her passion for connecting children with books is still unwavering.

“Things are hard right now for so many people, and we’re all carrying extra mental and emotional weight around,” says Rebecca. “I’m not sure I would have the capacity to go to a job every day that didn’t work to make the world a better place, honestly. Knowing that my work is helping to put books in kids’ hands—considering how much books meant to me as a kid, especially—helps me put one foot in front of the other, as it were.”

Images courtesy of Page Ahead


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