Today Val Gerhart provided an update on early literacy initiatives in Benzie County, starting with the Advocates for Benzie County (ABC) in 2016-2017.
Val and others at ABC took a look at the needs of Benzie County Children:
  • 40% of children not kindergarten ready
  • 50% of Michigan's 3rd graders not reading at grade level
  • Brain neuron development comes from reading
  • 44% of Benzie County year-round residents at ALICE or below poverty level
To address these alarming statistics Val and her colleagues recruited a number of partners to pursue availability of the Dolly Parton Imagination Library, a program that involves sending books for parents to read to their pre-kindergarten children.  The program promotes:
  • Love of reading and learning
  • Regard for diversity of people, their roles, culture and environment
  • Promotion of self-esteem and confidence
  • Appreciation of art and aesthetics
  • Every child receives two bilingual books each year
Some 460 Benzie County children are currently enrolled in the program; 225 have graduated and total of 5,270 books have been distributed.
The task force also works with the Benzie County Human Services Collaborative's 0-6 Work Group, the 5-county Read to Me network, Born to Read, the Literary Alliance of Northwest Michigan, and the Talking is Teaching initiative. 
To end her presentation, Val reminded us that reading aloud to children is the single most important activity for building the knowledge and skills the children need for kindergarten readiness.  Val's slide presentation is available as a download here.