Early Access to Books, Reading Benefits Children in Poverty

In so many ways, this video from the Campaign for Grade-Level Reading (“The Statisticks Lottery”) reflects our current efforts in the District of Columbia. Working with the District’s top policy, advocacy and service organizations, we are striving to improve the odds for infants and toddlers and their families. The Bainum Family Foundation’s 2015 report, “Infants and Toddlers in the District of Columbia: A Statistical Look at Needs and Disparities,” shows clearly how race and place shape the fate of the District’s youngest residents. It is truly a tale of two cities.

The report finds that, compared with those in more affluent areas, young children in the District’s poorest wards are:

  • Nearly 40 times more likely to have been born to women under age 20
  • More than 20 times more likely to live in “concentrated poverty”
  • Twice as likely to live in homes where no parent has stable employment
  • Twice as likely to have been born prematurely and born to moms who received late or no prenatal health care

All of these indicators highlight wide disparities between neighborhoods in terms of support for healthy births, quality child development and, ultimately, school readiness.

The Foundation has made a five-year, $10 million commitment to improve early childhood in the District, and we are tackling these challenges through a comprehensive approach that includes early learning, wrap-around support and knowledge building. We also are building an evaluation model to ensure that our efforts are having the intended impact.

Other efforts in the District are also addressing early learning and school readiness, including the Books from Birth initiative. Beginning in 2016, Books from Birth will provide a free book each month via mail to enrolled D.C. children from birth until their fifth birthday. Through a partnership between the DC Public Library and the DC Department of Health, the program gives new mothers an opportunity to opt in to the Books from Birth program at the hospital when their child is born. Learn more here.