PLATTSBURGH — Forty-eight million Americans have an income below the poverty level, according to American Community Survey data released by the U.S. Census.
No one knows more than Alice Sample how crucial early literacy is in changing that outcome for children.
“The more literate you are, the better you are able to get a job or know a job is there to get,” said Sample, who is the coordinator for Journey Into Reading. “One of the things that happened this year, our Reading is Fundamental funding was cut by the federal government. I’m one tiny, little portion of New York state. $2,400 just went away. Happily, all our local donors have come through, and we’re still doing Journey Into Reading.”
This is the first time since 1976 that the federal government has slashed the Reading is Fundamental budget.
“When they say they are cutting back, they really are. It’s a shame that it had to be literacy that got hit, but it did,” Sample said.
Sample and her volunteers — Sherry Beaubriand, Nancy Fournier, Barbara Ginette, Beth Noland, Bob Cheeseman and Cherie Barber — read stories to children from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. every Thursday outside of Kay Jewelers in Champlain Centre.
“We give away free books to all the young children, from zero to 18,” Sample said. “We started simply because we wanted to get parents aware of how important it is to read to children from the time they’re born. If they read to their children 15 minutes every day from birth, it amounts to 500 literacy hours before they enter kindergarten. Without those 500 literacy hours, as they walk through the front doors of kindergarten, they are all ready behind.”
An indicator of success in school whether a child comes ready to read.
“Reading is a jigsaw puzzle. If you come to kindergarten (from a reading household), you have four or five pieces and you can eventually fill in the jigsaw puzzle. If you come to school with none of the pieces, it’s very hard to fill in that jigsaw puzzle. Especially, if your cohorts are taking off and you realize you’re not taking off. It affects your self-esteem,” Sample said.