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Leading to Reading


Leading to Reading is an early literacy project serving the Dutchess County area.  The goal is to enhance literacy programs by providing books, reading kits, opportunities for classroom readers, and other support services.  The focus is on children from low and moderate income families who may have limited books at home.  Members develop family reading kits and donate them to numerous community agencies.  Book giveaways are done at various times during the year.  Community readers provide story times in pre-school classrooms, and special book celebrations are held each year.  Books for Babies provides a new book for every child born at Vassar Brothers Medical Center.  Laundromat Libraries place books in places where children spend time waiting. Books on Busses provides books to read and share on county busses.  Since the program started in 2004, over 36,000 books have been distributed by our many enthusiastic volunteers!

CTAUN’s Excellence in Education Award

Our amazing “Leading to Reading” project was honored at the United Nations on April 6, 2018 with an Excellence in Education Award.  Betty Harrel represented the “Leading to Reading” community service project for Poughkeepsie AAUW in the event held at the UN. 

CTAUN (Committee on Teaching About the United Nations) provides educators worldwide with opportunities to learn about the work of the UN and to incorporate this global awareness into curricula and school activities at all levels.  This year's theme was STEPPING UP TO PROTECT THE WORLD’S CHILDREN.  More information on CTAUN HERE>>

The description of the project sent to secure the award:

Elizabeth Harrel, Project Director
Project Title:      Leading to Reading

Project Description:

Early literacy skills and access to enticing books are forerunners of greater school success.  Leading to Reading, a multi-faceted community outreach project of the Poughkeepsie Branch AAUW (American Association of University Women) has provided over 30,000 books to children from low and moderate income families.  The totally volunteer project sponsors a variety of  literacy activities: Books for Babies, a new book and parent information for every baby born at Vassar Brothers Medical Center; Community Readers, guest readers at Head Start pre-school centers; Book Week celebrations, which feature classroom reading activities and book giveaways; Family Reading Kits, providing 2 new books, parent information on reading with the child, and simple activities related to the book topic; Service Learning, as part of a middle school curriculum; Fuzzy Friend Kits, given to children in stressful situations and which include books and a cuddly stuffed animal; Book Giveaways, in which children can choose a book to take home; Laundromat Libraries, which places crates of books in various community locations where children spend long times waiting; and Multi-Generational programming, including residents in a senior living center in volunteer activities.

Collaborations have been formed with over 20 community agencies.  Materials are distributed throughout the year to support literacy activities, summer reading programs, and rewards for program completion.  All funds go directly to provide services to children from birth through teens.

The program, started in 2004, has a track record of success and involves over 100 volunteers.


Special Activities and Events

Each year Leading to Reading sponsors a myriad of special activities. They support our mission, build visibility, and help us reach out into our community.

Creating Family Reading Kits

Book kits are developed for pre-school and school-age children. These include helpful hints for parents about reading with young children, simple activities linked to each book, and craft materials to complete a related project.  In addition “Fuzzy Friend” kits include a cozy stuffed animal for children who have been through a crisis situation. They are given to children who often have limited access to books in their homes or do not have regular opportunities to visit their local libraries.  Kits for older students are in string bags, which can be used for school or other activities.

Children’s Book Week Celebration

Children's Book Week is celebrated with the children at the Community Family Development Center.  Following a story-telling activity, members read stories in each classroom and the children enthusiastically work on a related craft.   Parents are provided with tips on reading with their children, and each child can select two new books to take home!


Summer Reading Programs

Each student in the Astor Pre-School program,  is presented with a book kit at the end of the school year.  The kit serves as part of the summer reading program and gives both parents and children activities to do together. A number of the program sites are involved, including Poughkeepsie, Wappingers Falls, Beacon, Millerton, Wingdale, and Red Hook.

Youth involved in the Rural and Migrant Ministry Program in Ulster County are given string bags containing 2 books.  The students use the bags to carry all their camp materials and reading time is a regular part of the summer program. Books swaps through the time are common!

Students who participated in Book Buddies in the Poughkeepsie City School District are also given books at the end of the year.  They are able to select their favorites to take home with them.


Community Readers

Each month, readers go into pre-school classrooms and provide interactive story times.  Books often coordinate with classroom activities and volunteers form a special relationship with the young children. There are now AAUW volunteers in centers throughout the county


Student Community Service

Enthusiastic Poughkeepsie Day School middle school students have joined the Leading to Reading project as part of their service learning program.  They have written book reviews of favorite books, designed bookmarks for the reading packets, brainstormed questions to place in the books, and shared some of their all-time favorites.  As part of the project, they put together the Books for Babies kits and designed a poster about the program for public display.



Holiday Gift Wrapping

Hudson River Lodging provides shelter for families while a parent is attending classes, job-seeking, or in counseling. AAUW volunteers wrap gifts donated by community agencies for each child in the program. In addition, every child is provided with a new book. Members take part in two sessions early in December and leave a mountain of brightly wrapped gifts for the children


Manor at Woodside Volunteers

Residents at the Manor at Woodside have joined our project and work with us in making the book kits. Since an AAUW member works with each resident, the conversations are always lively! The residents enjoy the work and Leading to Reading gives them an opportunity to continue supporting their community.   The residents are dedicated workers!


Books for Babies

Based on current research about the benefits of reading to children starting in infancy, Leading to Reading has been providing a new book to every baby born in Vassar Brothers Medical Center.  Parents are given a board book and tips on reading with a very young child.  Support has been received from Stewart’s Shops, Kohl’s Associates in Action, Love Effron, and Central Hudson. Over 5400 packets have been  donated to the Medical Center since the outreach started in  January 2015.

Laundromat Libraries

Jointly sponsored by AAUW and the Friends of the Poughkeepsie Public Library District, this new outreach places colorful crates of books in areas where children spend time waiting.  They are able to read the books while there and choose one to take home with them.  Currently books are in several laundromats in the City of Poughkeepsie, Fishkill and Hyde Park, in two food banks, and in Dutchess Family Court. Books for both children and adults are available.   Members regularly check the crates and refill them both with books from the Friends and from project grants.


Community Sponsors

AAUW members have supported the program through their volunteer efforts, their creative planning, and their donations.  Funds raised at the Writers’ Tea & Auctions have been used to purchase books and sponsor our special community programs.  The project has also been greatly enhanced through generous community support. Sponsors include:


  • 4Imprint.com: string bags for camp reading program
  • AAUW Cuisine Group: money to purchase books
  • AAUW-NYS Program Grant: funds to purchase additional books and materials for the Books for Babies outreach
  • Books for Kids: additional new books 
  • Central Hudson: funding for Books for Babies
  • Community Nursery School at Poughkeepsie United Methodist Church: gently used books for the Laundromat Libraries
  • First Book: both a grant for free books and the opportunity to purchase books at greatly reduced prices
  • Friends of Poughkeepsie Public Library: gently used books for children and adults
  • Individual donors: donations made by community residents  in memory or in honor of an AAUW member
  • Kohl’s Associates in Action: volunteers and funds to purchase books
  • Lisa Libraries: new books for tweens and pre-schoolers
  • Nora Roberts Foundation: money to purchase books and materials
  • Poughkeepsie Public Library District: books and materials for the county transportation system
  • Stewart’s  Shops and Holiday Match Grant: funds for our community project
  • The Manor at Woodside: storage space, a work room, and meeting rooms
  • Wappingers Congress of Retired Teachers: funding for our outreach program
  • Wappingers Congress of Teachers: new books for pre-school children

Community Collaborators

Leading to Reading has worked with numerous local agencies serving area children. Recent projects have been in conjunction with:

  • Abilities First
  • AgriBusiness Child Development Center
  • Astor Early Childhood Center – Beacon, Millerton, Poughkeepsie, Red Hook, Wappingers Falls, and  Wingdale sites.  Members also serve on their literacy councils
  • Book Buddies sponsored by Literacy Connections
  • Catharine Street Community Center
  • Community Family Development Center
  • Friends of Poughkeepsie Public Library District
  • Grace Smith House
  • House of Hope
  • Hudson River Lodging
  • New Hope Center
  • Poughkeepsie Public Library District
  • Rural and Migrant Ministry Camp
  • Tubman Terrace Academic Skills Program
  • Vassar Brothers Medical Center

Project Contact:  Elizabeth Harrel 845/462-2141 or email



Content © 2001-2019 Poughkeepsie Branch of the American Association of University Women, Inc, a non-profit 501(c)3 organization.
Website comments are welcome and may be directed to Mary King. This page last updated on Jul 28, 2018