Make Way for Books is awarded $500,000 grant from The Bob & Renee Parsons Foundation to create critical early literacy and learning opportunities for children.
The Bob & Renee Parsons Foundation awarded a generous $500,000 grant to Make Way for Books to expand their proven early literacy programming in Maricopa County and impact up to 3,000 young children and families over the next three years.
Only 33% percent of 3- and 4-year-olds in Maricopa County are enrolled in preschool. Missed early literacy and learning opportunities are connected to literacy struggles at kindergarten entry, and many children do not catch up. Last year, only 35% of third-graders in Arizona scored proficient or highly-proficient on standardized English Language Arts Assessments.
Support from The Bob & Renee Parsons Foundation will expand Make Way for Books’ Story School program to bring early literacy and learning opportunities, as well as high-quality books and literacy resources to thousands of children and families without access to these tools in the past.
“Growing up in inner city Baltimore, my family had very little. Books were a way for me to both escape and explore,” said Founder and CEO of PXG Bob Parsons. “By starting early and providing age-appropriate resources, Make Way for Books allows kids to master reading, opening up a world of opportunity.”
Make Way for Books’ Story School program is a two-generation model, meaning young children (ages birth to 5) and parents learn together and build skills. Through this bilingual (English/Spanish) program, children and families gather with highly-experienced Family Literacy Specialists each week. Children will experience shared reading and literacy activities that build essential skills while parents gain skills and confidence to support their children’s early development. Each family enrolled in the program receives a home library filled with 20 books to be used throughout the program. This library is tied to innovative literacy resources, including the Make Way for Books App where participants can access e-books and activities anytime, anywhere. The Story School program meets families where there are in the community by partnering with neighborhood schools, food banks, community farms, resource centers, and even providing online programming to meet the diverse needs of participating families.
According to Jenny Volpe, CEO at Make Way for Books, “Through Story School, we ensure thousands of young children have necessary early experiences with books and literacy from an early age, setting the stage for school readiness and success in reading in the future. Thanks to this generous grant from The Bob & Renee Parsons Foundation, we are thrilled to be able to further expand this innovative and collaborative program and bring our Story School program to more children and families at a larger scale.”
Make Way for Books’ programming encourages children and families to learn together each week through an ongoing early literacy series that builds children’s early literacy and language skills, including vocabulary and comprehension, which are correlated with successful reading in later years. With guidance from Family Literacy Specialists, parents and families support this learning by reading effectively with their children, including asking open-ended questions, prompting children to make predictions and observations, and using descriptive vocabulary. As a result of the program, last year 98% of children gained emergent literacy and language skills that are the building blocks for future reading.
“Parents and caregivers are a child’s first teacher,” said President & Executive Creative Director of PXG Apparel Renee Parsons. “Make Way for Books provides the right tools to families now, ensuring that children can succeed in school tomorrow.”
The COVID-19 Pandemic exacerbated learning loss over the past two years. In fact, the percentage of students on track to read at grade-level dropped by more than half compared to the previous year. This funding comes at a critical time and strengthens Make Way for Books’ ability to ensure underserved young children have the early literacy and learning opportunities they deserve. Support from The Bob & Renee Parsons Foundation will make those opportunities possible for thousands of Arizona’s youngest learners. Learn more about Make Way for Books at makewayforbooks.org.