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YMCA Head Start Kicks Off Nationally Recognized Literacy Program

YMCA of Greater Kansas City
October 26, 2017
Raising a Reader Kick Off - David Byrd, Shirley Pryor and Laura Welch with children from YMCA Head Start

The nationally recognized “Raising A Reader” program exemplifies the significance of reading at a young age while spending time with family. And soon, YMCA Head Start children will benefit from it.

Beginning in January 2018, the 490 children in all YMCA of Greater Kansas City Head Start programs will participate in Raising A Reader, thanks to local donors Shirley Pryor and Laura Welch, and a partnership with William Jewell College.

Each week, children will receive a bag of books to take home to read with their family, along with an instructional DVD about how to read the books out loud together. 

"There are so many statistics that show that having a book at home can make an incredible difference for a young child,” said Lyndi Dewey, Raising A Reader coordinator for YMCA Head Start. “It starts with brain development, but it goes much deeper, and we see stories every day of something as simple as sharing a book with a child can help build relationships within families.”

The program was introduced to YMCA Head Start families from across the metro at a special event on October 25 at Thomas Roque YMCA Head Start in Kansas City, MO. It officially begins at all YMCA of Greater Kansas City Head Start centers in January 2018.

At the event, donor Shirley Pryor read, "Ten Little Monkeys Jumping on the Bed" to the children. Children got involved counting the monkeys and saying the words out loud.

Laura Welch spoke to the crowd about why she is passionate about Raising A Reader.

"My passion actually is working with urban youth, and I believe in creating opportunities for these young people to reach their highest potential," she said.

She has worked on literacy programs for teenagers, but she said when she learned about Raising A Reader through a friend, she found that the biggest impact can occur by encouraging literacy at a very young age.

Studies show Raising a Reader is an outstanding program, she said, and it helps kids be successful. "It creates family cultures and bonding, as well as giving kids an opportunity to make it," she said.

The kickoff event also included a book fashion show. The children and their parents walked a runway carrying their favorite books as the show MC described the book and told why the child loves it.

Each child left the event with a book as well.

David Byrd, President and CEO of the YMCA of Greater Kansas City, said the program helps deliver the Y's mission.

"The early focus on reading for a child can set the sails for much hope, opportunity and possibility for them to thrive throughout their lives," he said. "We look forward to the progress of these children as we strive to ensure their success as growing youth."