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Spotlight Nonprofit: Teaching parents how to “book cuddle” with their children

LatinaLista — Literacy. It’s a word that gauges the future success of our children in school. Children who have an appreciation of reading and learn the basics of sounding out words go on to have success in school. Children who aren’t exposed to books and don’t grasp those early lessons are doomed to feel self-conscious, ashamed and, eventually, give up on school and themselves.


Every child has great literacy potential, if given the chance. Raising a Reader makes that happen.

Raising A Reader’s vision is that one day all children will enter kindergarten in love with the printed page and ready to learn to read.

The California-based nonprofit, begun in 1999, accomplishes its goal by working with parents when their children are still babies and helping them establish “book cuddling” routines with their children until they reach the age of five.

Basing their techniques on early childhood learning research, Raising a Reader knows that “book cuddling” not only contributes to a strong parent-child bonding but also fosters healthy brain development and establishes early literacy skills critical for success in school.

Since it was founded, the nonprofit has reached 811,000 children. Its long term goal is to extend its reach as a leader in early literacy family engagement and reach one million children.

The program works by circulating over 100 high-quality children’s books into children’s homes through an average rotation cycle. As a result, children and families develop, practice, and maintain the habit of sharing those books (‘book cuddling’).

Through initial training and ongoing support, parents and caregivers, even those with limited English proficiency or low literacy skills, learn how to engage their child by sharing a book. The program also includes a strong connection to the public library, establishing a foundation for lifetime access to books and love of reading. A dozen independent evaluations have confirmed the model works


Donations are always needed to keep the supply of books current to families in the program. Also, any community can start their own program and bring the love of reading to children who otherwise may not develop that interest until much later, if ever.

Migrant families in Santa Cruz County, Calif. are experiencing the joys of reading to their children thanks to Raising A Reader’s Pajaro Valley Unified School District affiliate. Over the past four years, the school district has served over 6,000 children, including migrant families who don’t often have the resources to support their children’s early literacy development.

At one local Family Child Care Home, provider Ester Castillo has noticed a difference in the children’s behavior and interest in books. After just one migrant season with Raising A Reader, she is thrilled to report that “One four-year-old was not interested in books, now wants two or three read to him whenever I sit down. Another three-year-old learned the books by memory.”

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