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>>
Elizabeth Harrel, Project Director
Project Title: Leading to Reading
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
Leading to Reading has worked with numerous local agencies serving area children. Recent projects have been in conjunction with:
Project Contact: Elizabeth Harrel 845/462-2141 or email