Raising a Reader From Aspen to Parachute

Author: Iliana Renteria, Program Coordinator, Raising A Reader

With Covid-19 came uncertainty to the homes of everyone from Aspen to Parachute. This, of course, has affected organizations and families alike. In the middle of it all, there’s a population who has seen their lives turned upside down with no other option but to rely on the adults around them. Our young children – who are in a crucial stage of brain development and language acquisition – have had to stay home with closed playgrounds, distressed parents, and few if any age-appropriate books to share with them.

Even now that our libraries are open again, there are a number of restrictions in place that make it very difficult for our most vulnerable families to get access to physical books.

ADAPT AND EVOLVE

Raising A Reader Aspen to Parachute is a local nonprofit that follows the national ‘red-book-bag weekly rotation’ model that has been implemented in every preschool and most of the kindergartens in the area since 2004. Our goal is to increase the time and frequency our local families are spending reading with their children.

With the pandemic, our organization came to the realization that our established model had to evolve and adapt to continue growing the relationships we have developed with our families.

Early Literacy Resources

In March, we shifted to an online model creating a large list of early literacy resources available in English and Spanish for our families, and began to deliver live weekly storytime sessions on both our English and Spanish Facebook pages, hence bringing a familiar face and a sense of normalcy into their homes.

Mom and Child Reading Clubs

We recently resumed our mom and child reading clubs – we now meet virtually each week – with an emphasis on the message that nurturing early literacy by reading aloud every day is more important than ever before, and that the bonds and happy memories parents create with their little ones provide the safety net their children need to transcend this situation. Parents are, after all, the most powerful teachers and models in their children’s lives.

STRONGER TOGETHER

Knowing that our families were spending so much time at home with few if any early literacy resources available to them inspired us to think outside the box and find new ways to collaborate with our community partners to meet our families where they are.

Spanish Storytime

Through partnerships with different organizations during these very uncertain times, we have been able to: get more than 400 children’s books in to the homes of families through Roaring Fork and RE2 School Districts’ meal delivery programs, donate and deliver books and activities to 90 Bolsitas Rojas/Little Red Bags club families, and provide Spanish storytime for the Garfield County Libraries. Now we are delighted to share our most recent project – Raising A Reader’s Storytime With Special Guests.

Veterans, police officers, teachers, and artists, school districts and other nonprofits such as Carbondale Arts, Aspen Youth Center, and Voices, and authors and content creators from Aspen to Parachute have joined us in this fun and exciting new project to bring stories to every child in the valley.

Each Thursday at 10:30 AM and 7:30 PM, Raising A Reader will premiere a reading of different children’s by a familiar face from our community, in English or Spanish, on our English and Spanish Facebook pages https://www.facebook.com/RAR.AspentoParachute and https://www.facebook.com/RARAspentoParachuteEspanol.

This is our way to remind our families that our community is here for them, and that we are happy to join efforts to keep supporting their children’s brain development and future success in life. Now more than ever, our communities are stronger together.

We are incredibly proud to be part of a very supportive community and greatly appreciate every person who reads and records their favorite storybook and anecdotes to share with us.

“…It was fun! I sent it to my daughter so she could play it for my grandson!!” – Amy Kimberly, Carbondale Arts

“Our boys are 15, 18 and 20 now. When they were little they loved reading and now they are all good writers.” – Jillian Livingston, Aspen Real Life

We hope this enterprise will inspire our local families to start and/or keep reading with their children at home, and to create memories that will last for a lifetime.

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